2018-04-05 / Front Page


Phelps center shutters doors
By Abigail Worthing Staff Writer

SACO– With little notice to their staff and even less to their clients, the Michael Phelps Skill Center in Saco has closed. The center, located on Lund Street, was housed in the same facility as the still-operational Orthopaedic Associates Performance and offered four 18-foot spas and has been active since July 2012.

The center provided a week’s notice to its 13-person staff, informing them of the intention to close the facility at a staff meeting at the end of last week. Patrons of the program were informed via email on March 26, and the last full day of lessons was March 30. As of the morning of March 30, its website still had lessons scheduled through the end of April. The website has been removed as of press time. However, its Facebook page is still active and there is no indication the center has closed.

The center was part of the Michael Phelps Swimming program, a method to provide guidance to aspiring competitive swimmers. Developed by Cathy Lears Bennet, current national program director and childhood coach of Michael Phelps, the program focuses on comfort in the water and according to its website, has instructed nearly 30,000 students. Phelps is the most decorated Olympian of all time, with 28 medals over the course of his career.

For the center, the end of its five-year lease came with a corporate re-evaluation of the Saco location. Michael Phelps Swimming has eight other locations, the closest of which is located in Rochester, New York.

The center originally opened to cater to competitive swimmers. Its spas used wave technology to provide resistance for continuous swimming without turning. According to General Manager Jack Voishnis, at the Saco location there wasn’t a high enough demand for the center to only focus on competitive swimming, so it shifted to include water safety, learn-to-swim lessons and family memberships. When the board of Michael Phelps Swimming looked over the current business plan of the center, they decided it had shifted too much from the original goal for the center and chose to not extend their lease.

“This was not a decision that came locally,” Voishnis said. “This was passed through corporate.”

According to Voishnis, the center works with about 300 families.

“I think we’ve created a great program here,” Voishnis said.

According to its website, classes were offered for children as young as 6 months and were $80 for four 30-minute classes, or parents could purchase a monthly Swim School membership for $60. For competitive swimmers, the school offered SwimDynamic, a program that “combines instruction, video analysis and planned swimming sessions in dynamic water” for as much as $550 for six hours of coaching and 10 full hours of reserved swim time. As of March 30, the website also had its summer swim program still available for purchase. Efforts to reach a representative from Michael Phelps Swimming were unsuccessful, and it is unclear at this time how refunds will be processed.

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