The Milton swimming community filled the bleachers, but that alone was nothing new. It happened all the time when the bleachers could seat about 80 people. Sunday was different. The bleachers at the new $8 million Lieder Family Pool seat about 550 and were filled for the dedication of the new Milton High School pool.
The last time Milton celebrated a new pool was summer 1965 and the name of the high school was “Milton Union.” Before then, Milton residents learned to swim at Clear Lake. Consequently, efforts were made to educate the community about pool safety, swim apparel and personal hygiene.
Fifty-six years later, community members had long been ready for a new pool.
The new pool is part of a $59.9 million school facilities referendum approved with 53% of voters saying yes in April 2019 after referendums did not pass in November 2016 and 2017. Other attempts to fund and build a new pool had been made before then.
Milton High Principal Jeremy Bilhorn said the purpose of Sunday’s event was to celebrate a new community treasure and dedicate the facility to Tom Lieder and his family.
“Tom himself was a treasure in this community for a very long time,” Bilhorn said.
He taught physical education in the school district for 36 years, then retired in 2007. He coached boys swim for 42 years and girls swim for 17 before retiring from coaching, then returning in 2017-18.
In an interview earlier this year, Lieder, a Wisconsin Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association Hall of Fame inductee, said people think of him as a coach, but he really liked being a swim instructor. He said his goal was to make everyone a successful swimmer.
Retired MHS Activities Director Brian Hammil talked about Lieder’s impact on Milton swimming. “When I think of the impact Tom Lieder has had on our swim community and really the community here in Milton, I can sum it up in two words: pyramid scheme,” he said.
The crowd laughed.
Hammil explained Lieder worked with a few thousand people, students, athletes, Boy Scouts and lifeguards.
“Those people all went on and made positive impacts on many others,” he said.
According to Hammil, Lieder sold the “scheme” through hard work, dedication, team work, selflessness, integrity and a love for the community.
Hammil also recognized Lieder’s wife, Terri, to whom Tom has been married for more than 50 years, and their three children, Craig, Chad and Carrie.
Sunday was his first time seeing the new pool in person, he said later.
“I just couldn’t believe it,” he said of his initial reaction. “It’s just gorgeous.”
The new pool has a family locker room in addition to men’s and women’s locker rooms, an ADA zero-depth entry ramp, built-in steps, eight lanes for competition (two more than the old pool), and 10 lanes for practice.
Above the new pool office is a viewing platform.
Competitors and spectators alike will appreciate the new scoreboard and timing and sound systems, which district Director of Building and Grounds Stephen Schantz said are capable of being operated from multiple locations.
Schantz said in a previous interview that the new pool and the old one have few similarities other than they both had 3½ feet of water in the shallow end and 10 feet in the deep end.
The process of draining the old pool started Feb. 1. The old pool space will be part of the new event entrance and an expanded commons area.
Swim lessons at the new pool start Monday, June 14.