Parks and Recreation

Promoting safety with the World’s Largest Swimming Lesson

By Bridget Russell, Interim Aquatics Supervisor

If you’ve ever wanted to be part of setting a world record, here’s your chance.

On Thursday, June 22, you are invited to join College Station Aquatics at Adamson Lagoon for the World’s Largest Swimming Lesson. The free 50-minute lesson begins at 8 a.m. and will cover safe-swim topics for all ages and experience levels. Preregistration is not required.

Since the World Waterpark Association introduced the event in 2010, the City of College Station has helped the organization set world records while promoting water safety and raising awareness about the importance of learning to swim. The World’s Largest Swimming Lesson brings together tens of thousands of individuals around the world to participate in the same lesson in a 24-hour period.

Last year, more than 40,000 kids and adults participated in WLSL events in 24 countries, including 50 at Adamson Lagoon. Aquatic facilities from Schlitterbahn Waterpark in Galveston to schools in India taught the lesson with one message in mind — swimming lessons save lives.

According to the World Health Organization, drowning is among the top five causes of death for people from 1-14 years of age. Research shows the risk of drowning can be reduced by 88 percent if children participate in formal swimming lessons between ages 1-4.

That means drowning is preventable, and swimming is a vital life-saving skill.

In addition to lessons, we offer these tips to keep your kids safe at the pool this summer:

  • Never leave children unattended. Parents are the first line of defense in keeping kids safe in the water. If your child is in the water, you should be, too.
  • Follow posted safety rules and warnings. Teach kids that being safe in and around the water is a personal responsibility — yours and theirs.
  • Teach your children to always swim with a buddy and never alone or in unsupervised places.
  • If you or a family member is a weak or non-swimmer, wear a life vest. College Station pools provide them at no cost.
  • Keep toddlers in shallow play areas.
  • Don’t use air-filled swimming aids such as water wings in place of life jackets. These items provide a sense of false security and may increase the risk of drowning. Swimming aids and other inflatables aren’t allowed in College Station pools.

For information about swim lessons, visit


About the Blogger

Interim Aquatics Supervisor Bridget Russell has served as pool manager for the City of College Station every summer since 2012 and is a certified lifeguard instructor. She also teaches in the Bryan Independent School District. A native of Torrance, Calif., Bridget earned master’s (2012) and bachelor’s (2011) degrees in sport management from Texas A&M.


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Podcast: Heart of local aquatics moves on after 30 years

By Jay Socol, Public Communications Director

This edition of the podcast is one where our guest is being interviewed for the very first time — but we’re actually saying goodbye.

Vera Solis served as College Station’s pools supervisor for 30 years. In this interview — recorded on her next to last day with the city — Vera talked about how she approached the profession, her legacy, where College Station could use another pool, and what her next adventure is all about.

Run time: 23:00

  • 00:00 – Opening comments.
  • 00:40 – Her start with College Station and in the aquatics industry.
  • 02:26 – Water activities were part of her own childhood.
  • 03:40 – What College Station Aquatics looked like in the mid-1980s.
  • 05:40 – How did you set out to change things?
  • 08:20 – Any changes in how you do what you do?
  • 09:50 – Will we always have public pools?
  • 12:20 – About the safety of College Station pools.
  • 14:00 – Proudest moments from the past 30 years.
  • 16:00 – Other highlights.
  • 16:50 – What did you NOT accomplish that you hope the next person does? (spoiler: establish another pool…)
  • 17:50 – What else would be nice? (yet another spoiler: water park)
  • 19:35 – What’s your legacy?
  • 20:15 – You’re now going to do what?
  • 21:30 – Final thoughts.

Click below to listen. If Soundcloud doesn’t play in your older version of Internet Explorer, click here to hear to the audio file from your system.


Podcast Archive

Jay Socol (@jaysocol) is in his eighth year as College Station’s public communications director. A 1991 graduate of Texas A&M. Jay has also been communications director for the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service, public information officer for the City of Bryan, and news director at several Bryan-College Station area radio stations. A native of Breckenridge, he also serves as president of the Texas Association of Municipal Information Officers.


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New Olympic sport has popular local venue

By Hallie Kutch, Marketing Staff Assistant

Skateboarding has been among the world’s fastest-growing recreational sports for much of the last decade. In fact, skateboarding has become so prominent that it will become an Olympic sport in 2020.

Live video feeds and instant upload technology have helped fuel the increased interest in skateboarding and other extreme sports. The thrilling action provides recreation, entertainment, and exercise and appeals to a melting pot of ages, abilities, and backgrounds.

Consequently, College Station’s challenging G. Hysmith Skate Park has become a popular venue for local skateboarders of all skill levels. Located on the eastern edge of Brian Bachmann Community Park, the lighted skate facility features a covered spectator area, a large pro-style flow bowl, a pool-type bowl, and a long, linear street course that includes hundreds of feet of varying terrain and scalable elements.

Garrett Hysmith was an energetic, ambitious, College Station middle schooler who was passionate about skateboarding. In 2005, the 13-year-old passed away after a courageous nine-year battle with cancer.

Garrett’s closest friends responded with Operation Garrett to convince the College Station City Council to include a skate park as part of the 2008 bond election. Voters overwhelming approved the $920,000 park, which opened in 2011. Local skaters even provided input on the layout and design.

The park was designed by Bleyl & Associates of Bryan in conjunction with Grindline, Inc., a specialty design firm in Seattle, Wash. Construction was performed by JaCody, Inc. of College Station in association with SPA Skateparks of Austin.

Hysmith Skate Park is an ideal venue for skateboarders to hone their skills and enjoy their sport safely. Share your skills on wheels with us on social media (#CSTXparks).

College Station may even be the starting point for a future Olympian.

312d2ecAbout the Author

Hallie Kutch is in her second year as marketing staff assistant in the Parks & Recreation Department after graduating from Texas A&M in 2014 with a degree in sports management and a minor in tourism research management. She has previously worked with the Dallas Sidekicks professional soccer team and Texas Team Junior Golf. Originally from White Oak, Hallie also attended Kilgore College and was a member of the famed Kilgore Rangerettes dance team.

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Veterans Park complex rated as top 10 sports venue

By J.D. Wood, Tourism Manager  

Athletes, coaches, and spectators have long considered College Station’s Veterans Park & Athletic Complex to be a premier venue for local, regional and national tournaments.

They aren’t alone.

SportsEvents, a prestigious trade magazine in the sports tourism industry, wholeheartedly agrees.

The publication has named Veterans Park as one of the top 10 multi-use facilities in the country for exceeding expectations and offering a memorable experience. The rankings will appear in the magazine’s June issue.

“Sports events planners find multi-use sports facilities to be a top choice for their events,” SportsEvents Managing Editor Sherri Middleton said. “Multi-use complexes and facilities not only provide a range of fields and courts to host a variety of sports, but many facilities also take it a step further by offering everything a planner could need from a friendly and accommodating staff to upgraded state-of-the-art amenities and more.”

The top 10 facilities (in alphabetical order by location):

  • Blaine, Minn. – National Sports Center
  • College Station, Texas – Veterans Park & Athletic Complex
  • Frederica, Del. – DE Turf Sports Complex
  • Gatlinburg, Tenn. – Rocky Top Sports World
  • Little River, S.C. – North Myrtle Beach Park & Sports Complex
  • Manheim, Pa. – Spooky Nook Sports
  • Mansfield, Texas – Fieldhouse USA Mansfield
  • Myrtle Beach, S.C. – Myrtle Beach Sports Center
  • Westfield, – Grand Park Sports Campus
  • Wichita, Kan. – Wichita Sports Forum

None of this happened by chance.

The fact that our peers and event participants selected Veterans Park & Athletic Complex proves we have established a winning formula that will continue to pay dividends well beyond the hundreds of events we’ve hosted in recent years.

This year alone, we’ve scheduled 30 events – including U.S. Quidditch and USA Archery – that are expected to attract some 35,000 participants. That number doesn’t even include the family members and friends who will come along to watch.

The level of service our parks employees provide, along with the quality of maintenance by our parks and recreation staff, helps set College Station and Veterans Park & Athletic Complex apart. Our success is also a direct result of the strong partnerships we’ve developed throughout our community.

While we’re proud of the high national ranking, we’re far from content.

Sports tourism is a highly competitive industry, and we continually work to enhance the quality of our services. With plans to add two more synthetic fields with lights – giving us 13 multi-purpose rectangle fields and five softball fields – we’ll be able to attract more and larger events in the future.


About the Blogger

J.D. Wood has been the City of College Station’s tourism manager since 2014 after serving as lead athletic supervisor for a year. His extensive experience in sports and tourism includes stints with the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau and Texas A&M Athletics. A native of Onalaska, J.D. earned his bachelor’s (2009) and master’s (2010) degrees in sports management from Texas A&M.


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Voters’ Choice returns to popular Starlight Music Series

By Gerry Logan, Recreation Supervisor

If you dream of performing on a live stage in front of enthusiastic and appreciative music fans, here’s your chance.

The crowd-pleasing Voters’ Choice contest returns to College Station’s Starlight Music Series this spring after a successful debut in 2016.

Bands and musicians over the age of 16 — and not signed under a promotional authority/contract — can enter for a chance to play at the May 6 concert at Wolf Pen Creek Amphitheater. Entrants must submit one song in an MP3 format along with a YouTube video of the song being performed.

A panel of local judges will select up to 12 finalists based on song originality, stage presence, and creativity. The public will then vote April 4-15 to determine the three artists who will compete at Wolf Pen Creek for these prizes:

1st Place $750 and an artist development package by Revive45
2nd Place $500
3rd Place $250

Starlight Music Series

In College Station, the arrival of spring means more than warm temperatures, green grass, and blooming flowers. It also means the return of the popular Starlight Music Series on selected Saturdays at the Wolf Pen Creek Amphitheater.

The free six-concert series opens April 8 and feature a variety of music to fit just about every taste.

Since 2002, the City of College Station has invited citizens to enjoy family-friendly entertainment under the stars. The best parts are that it’s completely free and guests can bring refreshments. Food and drink are also available for purchase on-site.

Guests are encouraged to bring blankets and chairs, and free parking is available at Post Oak Mall. We offer a KidZone area at each concert that features bounce houses and other activities from 6-10 p.m.

Join us this spring for six nights of free musical entertainment under the stars at Wolf Pen Creek Amphitheater!

2017 Concert Schedule

April 8 Texas Unlimited Band with guest Rosie Flores
May 6 Voters’ Choice winners
May 13 Will Hoge (solo) with guests Bonnie Bishop and Joey McGee
May 27 Def Leggend with guests Infinite Journey and Trio Grande
June 10 Step Rideau & the Zydeco Outlaws with guest Kidd Reece and Mo’ Live Zydeco
June 24 Cory Morrow with guest Cameran Nelson


For more information, go to or contact us at or 979.764.3486.


About the Author

Gerry Logan (@GL_sportsguy) is in his fifth year with the Parks & Recreation Department and has served as special events supervisor since 2014. He was previously the sports coordinator for the City of Clinton (Miss.) for three years. A native of Pontotoc, Miss., Gerry is a graduate student at Texas A&M after earning a degree in parks & recreation management from the University of Mississippi in 2010.


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Senior Games prove age doesn’t have to be a limitation


By Hallie Kutch, Marketing Staff Assistant

Olympic great Jackie Joyner-Kersee once said “Age is no barrier. It’s a limitation you put on your mind.”

Joyner-Kersee knows a little about persevering over perceived limitations. She overcame severe asthma to become arguably the greatest female athlete of all time. The world record Joyner-Kersee set in the heptathlon at the 1988 Olympics still stands.

When she says age isn’t a limitation, she means it.

16599461806_0066f537cb_oThat philosophy will be on full display Friday through Sunday when 400 dedicated athletes will compete in the Brazos Valley Senior Games at venues across Bryan-College Station. Admission is free. Click here for a schedule of events

The 50 years-and-older participants will face off in track and field, swimming, basketball, cycling, golf, 5K run, bowling, horseshoes, pickleball, disc golf, washers, table tennis, tennis, 3-on-3 basketball, cornhole and basketball skills. Gold, silver and bronze medals will be awarded in each event and age group.

Photos: 2016 Brazos Valley Senior Games, 2015 Brazos Valley Senior Games

These athletes seek competition to prove that health and fitness don’t have an age limit. Driven with purpose and dedication, they’ve dismissed boundaries and prove that athleticism and passion don’t have to fade as the years pass.

Here are a few of the fierce athletes who will be competing this weekend:

  • Baker Lee Shannon of Houston is the oldest male athlete at the age of 91 years and nine months. He is competing in four swimming events – 50 backstroke, 50 breaststroke, 50 freestyle and 100 freestyle.
  • Barbara Chenette of Crockett is the oldest female athlete at the age of 81 years and three months. She is competing in the 5K run.
  • Michael McDavid of Buchanan Dam is competing in 16 events – all in track & field – more than any other participant.
  • Joe Durrenberger of Los Angeles traveled 1,484 miles to compete in four track & field events – discus, hammer throw, javelin and shot put. Durrenberger was a standout basketball player at Rice in the mid-1950s, setting a Southwest Conference record with 30 rebounds against Baylor in 1956 (with 32 points). He’s also an actor who has appeared in several movies and television series, including Everybody Loves Raymond.
  • Jim Gerhardt of Houston, a 1952 Olympian, will compete in his fifth Brazos Valley Senior Games. He’ll participate in four track & field events — the discus, hammer throw, javelin, and shot put. Gerhardt placed 11th in the triple jump at the 1952 Summer Olympic Games in Helsinki, Finland. He and Durrenberger are members of the Rice Athletics Hall of Fame.
  • Joe Barger of Austin will compete in seven track events – 50M, 100M, 200M, 400M, 800M, 1500M and 5K run. The 91-year-old is a survivor of the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II.
  • DeEtte Sauer of Houston will compete in five swimming events – 50 freestyle, 100 freestyle, 200 freestyle, 500 freestyle and 100 individual medley. Sauer has won 50 swimming medals in various local, regional and national senior games and is a member of the Texas Senior Olympics Hall of Fame.

Facts & Figures

  • Total Athletes: 400 (268 men, 132 women)
  • States Represented: 5 (Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and California)
  • Brazos Valley Athletes: 57
  • Out-of-Town Athletes: 343
  • Volunteers: 140

Participants by Sport

  • 5K Run: 27
  • Basketball: 6 teams
  • Basketball Free Throws: 18
  • Basketball Skills: 16
  • Bowling: 37
  • Cycling: 41
  • Cornhole: 16
  • Disc Golf: 7
  • Golf: 29
  • Horseshoes: 16
  • Pickleball: 110
  • Swimming: 23
  • Table Tennis: 17
  • Tennis: 14
  • Track & Field: 92
  • Washers: 13

This event couldn’t happen without our generous sponsors. We offer our sincere thank you to the Brazos Valley Council of Governments, CHI St. Joseph Health, Innovative Fitness, KIND Snacks, Piranha Fitness Studios, Pita Pit, Signature Care, and Waldenbrooke Estates.

Need proof that age doesn’t have to be a limitation? Pick your favorite sport and venture out to watch these inspiring athletes compete this weekend.



312d2ecAbout the Author

Hallie Kutch is in her second year as marketing staff assistant in the Parks & Recreation Department after graduating from Texas A&M in 2014 with a degree in sports management and a minor in tourism research management. She has previously worked with the Dallas Sidekicks professional soccer team and Texas Team Junior Golf. Originally from White Oak, Hallie also attended Kilgore College and was a member of the famed Kilgore Rangerettes dance team.


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