Division III Augustana College will have a new home for its swimming and diving teams and may consider adding men’s and women’s water polo to its varsity sport offerings after announcing an $8 million challenge grant from the Austin E. Knowlton Foundation.
With the grant, the school plans to build the Austin E. Knowlton Center for Innovation in Health, Wellness and Human Performance. In addition to housing a 25-yard competition pool for the Viking men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams, the facility slated to open in 2020, will include classrooms, office spaces and exercise labs.
Augustana also hinted at the possibility of adding varsity water polo programs, saying that they are going to “explore the addition of women’s water polo as a varsity sport” while maintaining men’s water polo as a club sport. Augustana currently sponsors 25 varsity athletic programs.
“We are excited as this is a truly historic day in the history of our program,” head coach Dan Lloyd said. “The Augustana Swimming and Diving program is focused on a commitment to excellence not only in the pool, but in the classroom and most importantly in life. The investment in this new facility will help to further that commitment while at the same time giving our student athletes the resources they need to become champions in everything they pursue.”
The facility will give the Augustana aquatics programs a new home have for the first time since 1971 when they moved to Carver Center Pool. The men’s swimming program boasts eight College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin titles since 1929-30, while the women have garnered five since becoming a varsity sport in 1976-77.
The men’s and women’s teams will compete for the 2019 CCIW titles in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, Feb. 14-16.
“I am extremely proud of our swimmers and divers both past and present,” Lloyd said. “It is their sacrifice and dedication towards the pursuit of representing Augustana College at the highest level that has made this project possible. I am extremely proud and honored to work for a college that places the highest value on academic achievement which has been represented with 175 Academic All-Americans in the history of the athletic department. This building represents a unique integration of academics and athletics, while at the same time focusing on the overall health of all our students here at Augustana.
“This facility will revolutionize our program and will serve as an investment for generations to come. I would liked to thank the Knowlton Foundation for their generous gift and investment in the lives of our students here at Augustana.”
The Knowlton Center also will be tied in to the school’s newly announced kinesiology program, which is set to join the academic slate for the class of 2023.
According to Director of Athletics Mike Zapolski, the construction of the Knowlton Center could have a further reaching impact than just with the swimming programs.
“Discussions on this concept first began several years ago, and I am ecstatic about today’s announcement,” Zapolski said. “This project represents a significant ‘win’ for Augustana. A new and expanded aquatic venue will allow for the growth of the Augustana swimming and diving programs—plus put the College in a solid position to add men’s and women’s water polo as future varsity sports. On the academic front, the new kinesiology major will complement Augustana’s nationally recognized science offerings and serve as an attractive recruitment tool for our entire coaching staff.”