1. “A palace of swimmers has been opened in Stara Zagora.”
This was the front-page headline of newspaper Septemvri on 29 April 1972. The Olympic-sized pool had been completed a year earlier and was the second largest in the country. Until then, Stara Zagora had been the only big city in Bulgaria without an indoor swimming pool.
2. Joking aside, this is the Palace of Swimmers today.
“There were these rusty angle brackets – suddenly, they’d just fall. The place’s crying out for repairs,” veteran coach and former manager of the pool Gancho Petrov said, shaking his head. “The water’s well-maintained and very nice, but when you come out, the place doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, does it? It used to be a real beauty, yes it was… And now it’s falling apart with each passing day.”
3. Just as any other 44-year-old, the pool has had its fair share of ups and downs.
“It was basically an institution. Back then, there was no other indoor pool in the city,” a local resident of a similar age as the pool told us. “Whoever went swimming did it there.” Then came alternate periods of complete drought and cursory attempts to repair and re-launch the pool. That included a faux beach with sand, sunshades and loungers in front of the glazed facade.
4. The pool’s swimming lanes and changing rooms can tell many remarkable stories. But none of them features a chapter titled “Major repairs”.
As is already apparent, we have instead amassed materials that can be filed under “It stops raining outside, but it continues on the inside”. Maintaining an indoor swimming pool to promote professional and grassroots sports (i.e. by offering token entry prices) is an extremely expensive initiative for any municipality, even if swimming is one of its priorities.
5. Regardless of the changes in the status and condition of the pool as time passes, Stara Zagora’s swimmers have not stopped winning medals and bringing sports glory to the city.
It’s time for the Goldfish to make its first appearance in our story…
6. One of the children who were practically raised in this pool is Petya Petrova.
Her teachers and schoolmates at Todor Kableshkov Sports School dubbed her Goldfish. We assume the reason for this nickname is that in the period 2000-2003, Petya Petrova (whose personal trainer is her father, Gancho Petrov) won 13 championship titles in Bulgaria and set 2 national records. At the 2003 USA Open in Seattle, she was only 0.39 seconds short of qualifying for the 200 metres individual medley for women.
7. Boys and girls from 4 sports clubs (or 600 children a day) currently train at the pool free of charge. In the last few years, the Trayna Swimming Club has not missed a chance to give a “phenomenal performance” at domestic and foreign tournaments, as regularly reported by starozagorci.com.
Along with scores of cups in its trophy display cabinet, the pool has preserved some apocryphal stories that are no less great… (18+)
8. Stara Zagora residents who are not that into sports, especially those who studied at the Romen Rolan High School of Foreign Languages in the mid-90s, probably have fonder memories of its bar rather than the pool itself.
Everybody who has drunk vodka between lessons at any high school in the world knows full well what that means.
9. If they could talk, these particular showers would probably maintain a discreet silence.
Especially if you asked them about the wild summers of 1988-1992. “My most vivid memory is of us sneaking in through a broken window in the middle of the night, going for a swim and then, in the bathroom, it all turned into a…” You know what. Let’s keep the source of this information anonymous.
10. With an approved investment loan of almost BGN 2 million under the JESSICA (Joint European Support for Sustainable Investment in City Areas) initiative, the pool is on the cusp of a new page in its history.
The first major repairs in its long history and a number of improvements are coming soon. This is how the official ribbon-cutting will look:
11. The plans of the municipal administration and Mayor Zhivko Todorov include:
Expansion of the pool to the south. Comprehensive repairs. Exterior wall renovation. Modern ventilation system and implementation of new water filtration technology. Replacement of windows and flooring. Installation of energy-efficient solar panels to heat the water. Construction of additional stands. Access for disadvantaged citizens. Watch this space for news.
All details of the terms concerning applying for funding can be found here.
For the archive photographs and information, we would like to thank: Veneta Boneva from the Rodina Library, Snezhanka Marinova from the Zahariy Knyazheski Regional Library, Vanya Petkova from the Regional History Museum and the administrators of the Facebook pages of Todor Kableshkov Sports School and Stara Zagora in Pictures from the Past.