What's New: Carmel strip mall swim school

April 4, 2013
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The signs are up and construction has kicked into overdrive as Goldfish Swim School races to open its first Indiana location at Merchants Square in Carmel.

Founded in Michigan, Goldfish specializes in teaching children to swim. A custom 4-foot-deep pool (kept at a comfortable 90 degrees) occupies most of the 8,000-square-foot facility, which also includes a dozen cabana-like private changing rooms, a snack bar, a pro shop and a blow-dry bar for post-lesson coiffing. Startup costs were about $1 million.

Classes are expected to begin April 16.

Goldfish uses a membership-based model, charging a monthly fee for what it calls “perpetual swim lessons.” Franchise co-owner Katie Lee says that approach allows children to learn at their own pace.

“They move through the classes as their skills improve,” said Lee, who also operates locations in suburban Detroit.

Children attend 30-minute lessons weekly, and parents are encouraged to take advantage of so-called “Family Swims” to promote practice. Free hour-long family sessions are scheduled Mondays-Thursdays, and a 90-minute Friday evening session will cost $5 per person or $15 for the whole family.

Goldfish Swim SchoolGoldfish Swim School plans to open in Carmel's Merchants Square on April 16. (Photo courtesy of Goldfish Swim School)

Advanced students can participate in a recreational swim team designed to introduce them to competitive swimming.

“Swimming is a great equalizer,” said General Manager Tom Anderson, a Carmel resident (and father of twin 2-year-old girls) who will oversee daily operations. “You don’t have to be tall or muscular—everyone can learn how to float.”

Memberships start at $78 per month for one child, with discounts for additional family members. The facility, located in a Merchants Square outlot west of a Marsh grocery store, can accommodate as many as 2,000 students a week, Lee said. She hopes to reach capacity within two years.

Goldfish will open with a staff of 20, she said. Established schools have about 50 employees, who go through at least 40 hours of training before diving into lessons.

Lee said demographics steered the franchise owners to Carmel for Goldfish's 10th location. The site between Zionsville and FIshers should be convenient for more than 20,000 children 12 and younger who need swim lessons, she said.

IBJ reported in 2011 that more than 145,000 people live within a five-mile radius of Merchants Square, and the average household income is more than $112,000. Even so, the retail center has struggled to keep tenants.
The idea of a dedicated swim school has proven successful elsewhere, Lee said, and she’s confident that it will catch on here, too.

What do you think about the concept?

  • What?!
    $78/mo per child?! Are they crazy? Swim classes are usually $20/mo around Carmel. That pricing is nuts.
    • Expensive?
      I echo the previous comment about the pricing. $78/month per child for weekly lessons comes out to almost $20 per lesson. It's $72.50/month for a second child. I see on the website there's also an annual $25 registration fee on top of that. I really like the concept and the facility looks top-notch from the photos I've seen. It's definitely something I'm considering for my children.
    • Pricing
      Ryan - Where around Carmel are swim lessons offered for $20/month? Stony Creek Swim Center doesn't appear to be a whole lot cheaper than Goldfish.
    • Needed
      It will be filled in no time. From what I remember Stony Creek was a very similar price and not appealing. Two or three changing "booths" and no where to sit.

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    Sponsored by
    1. By Mr. Lee's own admission, he basically ran pro-bono ads on the billboard. Paying advertisers didn't want ads on a controversial, ugly billboard that turned off customers. At least one of Mr. Lee's free advertisers dropped out early because they found that Mr. Lee's advertising was having negative impact. So Mr. Lee is disingenous to say the city now owes him for lost revenue. Mr. Lee quickly realized his monstrosity had a dim future and is trying to get the city to bail him out. And that's why the billboard came down so quickly.

    2. Merchants Square is back. The small strip center to the south of 116th is 100% leased, McAlister’s is doing well in the outlot building. The former O’Charleys is leased but is going through permitting with the State and the town of Carmel. Mac Grill is closing all of their Indy locations (not just Merchants) and this will allow for a new restaurant concept to backfill both of their locations. As for the north side of 116th a new dinner movie theater and brewery is under construction to fill most of the vacancy left by Hobby Lobby and Old Navy.

    3. Yes it does have an ethics commission which enforce the law which prohibits 12 specific items. google it

    4. Thanks for reading and replying. If you want to see the differentiation for research, speaking and consulting, check out the spreadsheet I linked to at the bottom of the post; it is broken out exactly that way. I can only include so much detail in a blog post before it becomes something other than a blog post.

    5. 1. There is no allegation of corruption, Marty, to imply otherwise if false. 2. Is the "State Rule" a law? I suspect not. 3. Is Mr. Woodruff obligated via an employment agreement (contractual obligation) to not work with the engineering firm? 4. In many states a right to earn a living will trump non-competes and other contractual obligations, does Mr. Woodruff's personal right to earn a living trump any contractual obligations that might or might not be out there. 5. Lawyers in state government routinely go work for law firms they were formally working with in their regulatory actions. You can see a steady stream to firms like B&D from state government. It would be interesting for IBJ to do a review of current lawyers and find out how their past decisions affected the law firms clients. Since there is a buffer between regulated company and the regulator working for a law firm technically is not in violation of ethics but you have to wonder if decisions were made in favor of certain firms and quid pro quo jobs resulted. Start with the DOI in this review. Very interesting.