Committment To Aquatics

Nov. 29, 2006

University of Iowa Recreational Services and the Athletic Department have partnered together this past year to make a new, more modern, recreational facility possible. The partnership means that recreational services will provide $60 million of the $69 million project. The athletic department will be picking up the remainder. The facility will be at the corner of Burlington and Madison Streets and is estimated to open during the 2009-2010 school year.

The three level facility will have general public locker rooms, a leisure pool, offices for wellness, spectator seating, a multipurpose space, a climbing wall, fitness spaces, recreational services and administration offices, an indoor track, and above all, a dotted I pool, team locker rooms, and coaches’ offices for the swimming and diving teams.

Aquatic sports at the university have been competing in the Fieldhouse since 1929. At the time, it was one of the great indoor pools in the world. The Big Ten has been putting a big investment into aquatic facilities. Iowa has the smallest pool in the conference.

“Swimming programs have been at a disadvantage,” said Senior Associate Director of Athletics, Jane Meyer. “They have an old pool. Locker rooms are not sufficient. They’re crowded and small. There’s not a lot of clear space for athletes to even stand up in their locker rooms.”

The Olympic length pool in the new facility will be extremely convenient for the team. The current pool has eight 25-yard lanes so the team has to stagger its pool use. The new 50-meter pool could make about 20 25-yard lanes, which means everyone will be able to use the pool during the same two hour block. The separate diving well will also allow the divers to do this. They’ll also have the opportunity to dive into water which is at an ideal depth.

Swimming Head Coach, Marc Long, recalls hearing talk about the University building a new aquatics facility while he swam for Iowa in the 1980s. It was just talk then, but in the last five years, the talk has been heavy. The project was originally going to locate the facility on the West Campus between the Hall of Fame and the soccer field.

Long and Assistant Coach, Robert Pinter, attended the Board of Regents meeting earlier this year when the Board gave its final approval for the project. The two couldn’t believe the facility was finally going to be built.

“First of all, it shows a commitment to aquatics from our Athletic Department and the University,” said Long. “Just having this project being built and to see some movement on the site. If nothing else, it will show a great commitment from Gary Barta and our department. It’s also a commitment from the University and Rec Services Director Harry Ostrander.”

Along with what the facility will do for the University’s swimming programs, the hope is to also host meets for all ages. The first will be to host the Big Ten championships and the other is to put in bids to host diving and NCAA championships. Recreational Services can put in bids to host high school meets and USA swimming meets.

Long also hopes to host junior and senior level meets with some of the best swimmers in the Midwest and the country as they’re growing up. This could help in recruiting. Getting the best athletes in Iowa is not always the easiest thing, but Long hopes that while they’re here for meets, they will love Iowa City and want to compete here.

Meyer compares the facility to that of the new tennis facility. Tennis has already seen a dramatic increase in interest to the program and the quality of the athletes who want to attend Iowa. The vision is to do the same for swimming and diving.

“When you’re building a new structure, it’s not only motivational for the staff and the student-athletes. It also generates a significant amount of interest from other athletes who want to come and be a part of it,” said Meyer. “Most important, our entire student body will benefit from it.”

For Long, the facility can’t be built quick enough. But knowing the commitment is there from the University is a great thing for him. As for now, the program has to move forward and go about their day-to-day business as usual. At least they know that Hawkeye aquatics is here to stay.

By Josh Mitchell