First Indiana site for Big Blue Swim School planned at Hamilton Town Center

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Big Blue Swim School
A Big Blue Swim School is expected to open in 2023 at Hamilton Town Center in Noblesville. (Photo provided by Mainland)

Big Blue Swim School, a chain of instructional facilities for children ranging from 6 months to 12 years, is set to make its Indiana debut in early 2023.

Carmel-based franchisees Gavin and Tara England plan to open a Big Blue Swim School at 13920 Hoard Drive in Noblesville, at the former site of a Stein Mart in Hamilton Town Center. Stein Mart closed all of its stores, including four in the Indianapolis area, late last year amid bankruptcy.

The husband-and-wife team plans to open five Big Blue locations in the Indianapolis area, with Avon on deck after Noblesville.

Gavin England, who grew up in Kokomo and attended Indiana University, said he and Tara researched the learn-to-swim industry as a way to phase out of their respective careers in financial services.

“One of the big requirements we had was that we didn’t want to just jump into something because it was a good investment,” he said. “We wanted it to be somewhat community-minded.”

Big Blue Swim School, founded in 2009 by former University of Michigan swimmer Chris DeJong, touts the teaching of skills to make children “feel confident in the water.” 

A Big Blue facility includes two pools that are temperature controlled at 91 degrees. Thirteen swim lanes allow simultaneous classes among age groups.

Tara England said Big Blue’s scheduling software, known as LessonBuddy, is a time saver for families.

“Instead of saying, ‘OK, all the 5-year-olds go at 4 p.m. on Tuesdays,’ every age group is going every 30 minutes,” she said. “The swim lessons are half an hour. If you have a 7-year-old and a 3-year-old, you can bring them and knock out their lessons at the same time.”

Between 2,500 to 3,000 lessons can be taught in a week, and a Big Blue location can employ as many as 30 staff members.

The first Big Blue Swim School opened in the Chicago suburb of Wilmette, Illinois. Presently, at least 10 facilities are open in Illinois, Georgia, Colorado and Virginia. Dozens of additional locations are in the pipeline through franchise agreements. Franchisees, on average, make a total investment of $2,3 million to $3.6 million to open each location.

In central Indiana, Big Blue will enter a market that already includes learn-to-swim chains British Swim School, Goldfish Swim School and Aqua-Tots.

Tara England said she believes there’s room for Big Blue.

“We think the swim lesson market is really underserved,” she said. “There are tons and tons of children and healthy demographics for young families.”

Gavin England said he appreciates Big Blue’s philosophy of opening swim schools where people gather. The Hamilton Town Center location, for instance, will be next door to a JCPenney store.

“We try to make sure we pay a premium for the real estate to be near a major draw or anchor tenant,” he said. “We really try to make it as convenient as possible.”

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5 thoughts on “First Indiana site for Big Blue Swim School planned at Hamilton Town Center

  1. What happened to the days when your parents taught you how to swim? Another task to farm out to someone else to do for those who can afford to pay for it.

    1. Last I checked parents only have access to city pools in the summer. How dare parents want their kids to have year-round lessons for a necessary life skill…

    2. My parents put my 3 older siblings and me in swimming lessons to learn to swim, and that was in the late 1960s and early 1970s, in a rural community. Our high school offered swimming lessons every summer at the high school pool. It’s really not a big deal that people pay for swimming lessons for their children – actually it’s preferable to teach proper technique and water safety. Gone are the days of tossing Junior in the creek and expecting him to figure it out – is that what you had in mind?

  2. WoW,it never cease to amaze me at the things some Hoosiers will complain about.This is the very reason developers are reluctant to build new large bold attractions here, because of the conservative mindsets.Theres millennials that require these sorts of amenities in a city when they’re considering where to move their families.Its all about the quality of life and work an area can provide.Covid has given a unique opportunity so that parents can work from home but quality time to teach your own kids to swim just isn’t always there,so a place like this is perfect for many parents.