Eastern Shore Aquatic Center, Destroyed by Hurricane Sally, Raising Funds to Rebuild

USA Swimming
Photo Courtesy: Competitor

Rich Suhs checked the chlorine levels in the two pools at the Eastern Shore Aquatic Center Tuesday, preparing for a loss of power as Hurricane Sally roared toward Daphne, Alabama.

The next time he visited the facility he’s owned for 11 years, he was greeted by an aluminum roof shredded to pieces, collapsed walls and debris spread across the parking lot and adjoining fields. Making matters worse for Suhs, known around the pool as “Coach Rich” who acquired the facility as part of his career as a coach, is a lack of insurance on the building to cover damages.

Hayley Craig, who rents space at the facility for a swim school, has started a GoFundMe campaign aiming to raise $25,000 to rebuild the facility. As of Saturday afternoon, they had raised more than $7,500.

“Everywhere around that place is OK, but for some reason, his is just demolished,” Craig told AL.com. “He has zero insurance on that building and it’s a 100 percent loss.”

The club on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay was built in 1997. It had survived catastrophic storms, like Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Suhs, who calls it a passion project, purchased it with another swim coach in 2009, a self-financed deal in which insurance on the facility was “just cost prohibitive.”

The facility has an eight-lane competition pool and a smaller activity pool. Kuhs coaches Southern Waters Aquatic Team (SWAT) out of the facility and rents space to swim schools and high schools for practices, as well as space for lap swimming and aquatic rehabilitation.

Suhs has been a swim coach for more than 30 years. Eastern Shore Aquatic Center hosted classes and age-group sessions up until Tuesday for about 100 kids. Suhs said that up to 600 kids took part in programing there this summer.

“He has a big community around him,” Craig said. “We have so many followers. But some of my closest families who take swimming lessons there were under the impression he had insurance. Everyone thinks insurance will cover (a rebuild). But we have none on it. We’re without jobs now, too.”

Hurricane Sally made landfall on the Gulf Coast as a Category 2 storm, with sustained winds up to 105 miles per hour. The storm moved slowly, dumping up to 30 inches of rain in areas.

Read the full story about Eastern Shore Aquatic Center on AL.com.

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