Kathy Carlson

Shakopee Public Schools Board members gather with Kathy Carlson (center, in white) after approving a recommendation to rename West Middle School’s pool complex to the Kathy Carlson Aquatic Center.

The West Middle School pool complex in Shakopee will soon be renamed as the Kathy Carlson Aquatic Center.

The school board unanimously approved a motion to rename the space during its board meeting Monday night.

Carlson first founded the Shakopee High School Swim and Dive team in 1979 and coached for 32 years, resulting in multiple individual state champions and a state runner-up finish in 1997, according to the district.

She was later inducted into the Minnesota Swim Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2003. She also served as the Shakopee High School head girls track coach from 1984-2011 and has previously held roles as Vice President and President of the High School Girls Swimming Coaches Association.

The decision leading up to the vote had been months in the making. A naming committee was first appointed by the school board in November 2022, eventually comprised of various district officials and community members: Board Member and Naming Committee Chair Joe Aldrich, Superintendent Mike Redmond, Student School Board Member Danielle Dake, Athletic Director Matt Hanson, Director of Communications and Strategic Development Tiffany Olson, Kelly Tippie, Sara Schumacher and former Shakopee School Board Member Judi Tomczik.

The committee held its first meeting in late January. A community survey was later conducted from Feb. 23-March 10, asking community members, alumni, students and families for their thoughts on renaming the pool complex after Carlson.

The survey ended with 317 respondents, nearly all of whom were in heavy support of this proposal.

“It was just so overwhelmingly positive that to go forward with naming it after you seemed like a no brainer,” Aldrich said to Carlson during the meeting.

Survey responses referred to Carlson as an influential coach, mentor and icon within the realm of Minnesota swimming.

“The responses we got when we read them were unbelievably positive and really touching,” Redmond said.

The naming committee unanimously recommended renaming the pool complex to the Kathy Carlson Aquatic Center during the school board meeting, where it was then also unanimously approved by the board.

Current plans include redoing signage outside, which currently just refers to the entrance as “pool,” and creating a plaque that details Carlson’s history and her impact on Shakopee and Minnesota swimming.

“I think this is awesome. Kathy, you’ve earned this. You started this program here in Shakopee in 1979, and you have developed this program into what it is today,” Board Chair Kristi Peterson said. “We’ve had a lot of awesome swimmers that have come out of our high school program as a result of your dedication and passion to swimming here in Shakopee.”

Carlson was in attendance during the meeting and briefly spoke ahead of the vote.

“I’m very humbled and honored by this. It’s overwhelming,” she said. “I thank you so much. It’s just quite an honor.”

A public ribbon-cutting ceremony is expected to take place later this summer, according to a district press release.