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Eight Seasoned Destinations Are Ready to Host Your Next Meet
Mar 01, 2023 | By: Michael Popke

The Association of Aquatic Professionals recently dedicated a section of its weekly newsletter to a sampling of nine new aquatic facilities under construction in the United States, and the 2022 Sports & Fitness Industry Association’s “U.S. Trends in Team Sports
Report” indicates that “swimming on a team” is among the top five sports in which participation is significantly increasing.

Indeed, swimming is thriving, with club teams always looking for new and exciting places to jump in and get wet. Here are eight destinations (in alphabetical order) that prioritize swimming and diving — for both local residents and event organizers. And they should be on your aquatics radar.

Athens, Georgia

Athens, Georgia | Photo by Kayla Renie
Athens, Georgia  |  Photo by Kayla Renie

As the home of the University of Georgia’s Gabrielsen Natatorium and the Bulldog swimming and diving team (whose women have won seven national championships since 1999), Athens has a long history of producing world-class swimmers and divers, as well as hosting top-flight events, according to Jake Stanley, the university’s assistant sports communications director for swimming and diving. Georgia’s program also has produced 88 Olympians and more than 300 All-American swimmers.

The 50-meter competition pool at Gabrielsen Natatorium can be configured into four different layouts utilizing two movable bulkheads, and it offers seating for almost 2,000 spectators. Diving amenities include two 1-meter springboards, two 3-meter springboards and five diving platforms (1, 3, 5, 7.5 and 10 meters) with a landing pool that is 17 feet deep. No wonder the facility has hosted four NCAA Championships, six Southeastern Conference Championships, the U.S. Diving World Championship Trials and countless state and regional youth meets annually.

“With the wealth of talent in the region, one of the nation’s top natatoriums, and a unique small-town flair, Athens has established itself as a hotbed for the sport,” Stanley says.

DuPage County, Illinois

DuPage County, Illinois | Photo courtesy of DuPage County, Illinois
DuPage County, Illinois   |  Photo courtesy of DuPage County, Illinois

This northern Illinois county, located just west of Chicago, hosted the TYR Pro Swim Series for the first time in 2022 at the FMC Natatorium at Ty Warner Park in Westmont. The event featured some of the nation’s best swimmers (including Katie Ledecky, Caeleb Dressel and Ryan Murphy) and it helped elevate DuPage County to the next level.

Prior to the opening of the FMC Natatorium, which includes an Olympic-size pool with three sides of permanent seating for up to 1,200 spectators, many Illinois-based USA Swimming events were held across state lines in Wisconsin and Indiana, according to Igor Bakovic, director of sports for the DuPage Sports Commission.

Today, he adds, the facility is one of the premier aquatic venues in the United States and hosts the Illinois Boys and Girls Swimming & Diving State Championships. It also will be the site of USA Artistic Swimming’s 2023 U.S. Collegiate Championship and USA Water Polo’s Olympic Development Program National Championship in 2024. Additionally, the FMC Natatorium hosted USA Water Polo’s 2022 Kap7 Champions Cup (and will welcome it again in 2024).

“Throughout my time working with the team at FMC Natatorium, I have learned that a lot of research and thought went into the design of the venue,” Bakovic says. “It was a combination of some of the best features from various swim facilities around the country, as well as incorporating their own personal design. The result is a very exquisite venue with high-end finishes and so much natural light.”

Incidentally, ranks DuPage County as the healthiest county in Illinois and one of the top 25 healthiest in the country, and the county’s aquatics landscape includes several community and competitive swimming clubs.

Edmond, Oklahoma

Edmond, Oklahoma | Photo courtesy of Visit Edmond
Edmond, Oklahoma  |  Photo courtesy of Visit Edmond

This central Oklahoma destination received a 2022 Champions of Economic Impact in Sports Tourism award from Sports Destination Management for hosting the 2022 Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association’s 5A/6A State Swimming Championship, the state’s largest high school swim meet. More than 900 swimmers converged on the Mitch Park YMCA & Edmond Aquatic Center, which boasts a 50-meter competitive pool, two moveable bulkheads and spectator seating for nearly 800. The three-day meet generated 450 room nights and $1.4 million in total economic impact.

“Edmond has a fast pool [with] infinity-edge gutters to allow for minimal wave obstruction with swimmers,” says Bryan Heathcock, facilities director for the Edmond District of the Mitch Park YMCA. “Swimmers love the windows for natural light and the state-of-the-art UV system to supplement pool water disinfection. And the sound system is a game changer!”

“Swimming is growing in this community,” adds Jennifer Seaton, tourism director at Visit Edmond. “Every year, graduating seniors receive swimming scholarships to schools across the country, and swimming events receive first-class attention in Edmond.”

In addition to the Edmond Aquatic Center, the Olympic-size 50-meter pool at Jenks Trojan Aquatic Center can host large meets.

Fresno/Clovis, California

Fresno County, California Photo courtesy of Fresno/Clovis Convention & Visitors Bureau
Fresno County, California | Photo courtesy of Fresno/Clovis Convention & Visitors Bureau

Swimming and diving are a major draw in California, thanks to the state’s abundance of outdoor facilities. Fresno and Clovis boast several such venues, including the Clovis West Aquatics Center, Clovis North High School Aquatics Complex, Buchanan Aquatics Complex and the Central Unified Aquatics Complex.

“Because of Central California’s great weather, we have the ability to host meets year round,” says Andrew Smith, director of sales for the Fresno/Clovis Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Clovis Unified School District has some of the best high school swim facilities in the state of California, two of which are able to host events with hundreds of athletes and several thousand fans.”

The Clovis West Aquatics Center, already a premier 50-meter swim and dive complex, is currently undergoing a $7 million upgrade, he says, which will include a new deck, replastering, a high-definition scoreboard and a new shade structure for the 1,500-specator seating area.

The Clovis North High School Aquatics Complex, meanwhile, features two side-by-side 50-meter pools. One (with 19 lanes) is two meters deep and is used for competitive swimming and water polo; the other pool also has 19 lanes and includes a diving well at one end with three 1-meter boards and one 3-meter board. This pool also boasts an infinity-edge designed to allow divers easy exit from anywhere in the pool.

Greensboro, North Carolina

Greensboro, North Carolina Photo courtesy of Greensboro Convention and Visitors Bureau
Greensboro, North Carolina
Photo courtesy of Greensboro Convention and Visitors Bureau

The massive Greensboro Aquatic Center (GAC), which contains four pools and is a key component of the sprawling Greensboro Coliseum Complex, is one reason why the city can, without hesitation, call itself “Tournament Town.”

“Our community loves swimming and diving,” says Kayla Adams, sports sales manager for the Greensboro Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Our facility is in the center of the state, and there is a lot of great talent in Greensboro and close by. We see so many familiar faces year after year with athletes and event organizers, so it’s been something to look forward to.”

The GAC’s calendar is packed with local, regional and national meets, including the 2022 Toyota U.S. Open Championships, the 2022 Speedo Winter Junior Championships, the 2023 NCAA Division III Swimming & Diving Championships and the 2023 YMCA National Short Course and National Long Course Championships.

In 2019, the GAC opened its fourth pool: an $8.3 million, 27,000-square-foot addition that offers a 50-meter practice pool with 19 short course lanes and eight long course lanes to complement a 50-meter stretch competition pool with 22 short course lanes and eight long course lanes, a 25-yard warm-up/cool-down pool with six lanes, and a 25-yard diving well with six swimming lanes and diving apparatuses for 10, 7.5, 5, 3 and 1 meters. Seating capacity is 2,500.

Knoxville, Tennessee

Knoxville, Tennessee | Photo courtesy of Visit Knoxville
Knoxville, Tennessee  |  Photo courtesy of Visit Knoxville

Like Athens, Georgia, and the University of Georgia, Knoxville is a major college town with a successful aquatics program at the University of Tennessee. The Allan Jones Aquatic Center on campus includes two indoor 50-meter pools, two indoor diving wells and an outdoor 50-meter pool with an additional diving well. The indoor facility can seat nearly 1,300 spectators.

“Organizers enjoy coming here because of the opportunity to swim and dive in one of the top pools in the country,” says Chad Culver, senior director of the Visit Knoxville Sports Commission, noting that the facility hosts such major events as Southeastern Conference championships, NCAA championships and annual stops on the TYR Pro Swim Series.

The Allan Jones Aquatic Center also will welcome the USA Diving 2024 Olympic Trials next year, when more than 100 of the nation’s best divers are expected to compete for spots on the 2024 U.S. Olympic Team. Pending U.S. qualification, competition will be conducted for both men and women in individual and synchronized 3-meter springboard and 10-meter platform events.

“We have proven we can run high-quality events year after year,” Culver says. “Give us a shot. I promise you will enjoy our town, and there is no better pool than the Allan Jones Aquatic Center. We haven’t had an event there in the past seven years that hasn’t wanted to book a second event. We must be doing something right.”

Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Lancaster, Pennsylvania | Photo courtesy of Dave Sinclair
Lancaster, Pennsylvania  |  Photo courtesy of Dave Sinclair

This southeastern Pennsylvania community boasts a vibrant competitive swimming scene, according to Shawn Carty, director of conference and events services at Franklin & Marshall College, home of the Aquatic Center and the McGinness Pool. The venue holds almost 500 spectators and boasts a state-of-the-art UV purification system that allows for lower chlorine levels and cleaner air quality.

This year, the facility is hosting such high-profile meets as the Easterns Championship (known as “the premier prep school swimming and diving meet in the country”), the New Jersey YMCA 13 & Over State Championship and Middle Atlantic Swimming’s Junior Championships. All told, the facility hosts four or five large meets each year, Carty says.

He notes that the facility’s ease of access makes the Kunkel Aquatic Center a natural choice for event organizers: “We are 90 minutes from Baltimore and Philadelphia and 45 minutes away from Harrisburg. We are also within a reasonable driving distance from New York City.”

Midland, Texas

Midland, Texas | Photo courtesy of COM Aquatics
Midland, Texas  |  Photo courtesy of COM Aquatics

Hosting a swimming and diving meet can be trickier than hosting, say, an outdoor soccer tournament. That is because, in large part, meets require the cooperation of so many key entities. Take this west-central Texas community, where City of Midland Aquatics (COM Aquatics, for short) owns and operates a seven-pool complex as a nonprofit organization.

“We have a collaborative approach to the sport across all our schools and the club environment,” says Laura Retzer, business manager for COM Aquatics. “Working together allows us to push our athletes to even higher levels of success and have a bigger impact by reaching more kids. Our 10-lane, 50-meter pool and full diving set make us a great facility for hosting meets.”

Last summer, COM Aquatics hosted the USA Diving Junior National Championships and US Open Championships, a 15-day competition that welcomed more than 700 divers. Events on this year’s calendar include the Syntal Capital Partners Winter Invitational.

The COM Aquatics complex is anchored by the FMH Foundation Natatorium, which boasts 10 50-meter lanes or 20 25-yard lanes, as well as a separate warm-up/cool-down pool. For diving, the facility offers four 1-meter and 3-meter springboards, and a full tower set with 3-, 5-, 7.5-, and 10-meter platforms.

Then there’s this: “Since COM isn’t part of a city municipality or educational organization, there is greater flexibility in regard to scheduling,” Retzer concludes.  SDM

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