St. Charles, Illinois, in the western suburbs of Chicago, is planning to break ground on a new world-class aquatic center in 2019, in part through the support of the Michael Phelps Foundation.
The project, dubbed the St. Charles Aquatic Center, will have a 10-lane, 50-meter competition pool along with a smaller 4-lane, 25-yard warm-water, zero-entry pool for “recreation, therapy, and teaching.” The project is being pushed by Swim City USA, a group whose mission it is to make the facility a reality. The group contracted the Isaac Sports Group (the same group that did the study on tech suits for USA Swimming) to conduct a feasibility study.
The pool will be built on land already owned by the St. Charles Park District, specifically at East Side Park. The cost of the facility is estimated at $19 million.
They plan to sell the naming rights to the facility to a “major corporation” to help fund the project. They plan on leaving the district with not only the natatorium, but with an endowment to help cover maintenance.
According to a Facebook post by Swim City USA, the Michael Phelps Foundation has committed to give a grant to the facility to help “over 1,000 children-in-need” to learn to swim.
“The St. Charles Aquatic Center will be a great addition to a wonderful community,” said Marissa Fortier, the deputy director of the Michael Phelps Foundation We are thrilled that the Center will provide services to everyone, including the underserved. We are excited to offer our programming at this impressive new facility and have been looking forward to announcing that the foundation will be providing a grant so that over 1,000 children-in-need can learn to swim.”
Illinois has a shortage of championship-caliber pools, one so severe that the state’s local swim committee (LSC) and local masters swim committee (LMSC) frequently hold major club championships in other states. The recent Illinois Swimming Masters’ Championships were hosted in Indiana, and the state’s 2018 age group championships were held in Wisconsin.
This new pool will help alleviate that strain, but initial designs, which have seating on just one side of the pool, indicate that it won’t be an upgrade for the state’s high school championship meets. Current Illinois rules require that seating be available on at least 3 sides of the pool for it to be eligible to host the state championship meet. That limits the event to a two-site rotation between Evanston Township High School and New Trier High School. The result is an exciting spectator and competitive experience, but a challenging athletic experience. The Evanston pool is only 6 lanes, with a small 20 yard pool for warm-up/warm-down, while New Trier has no warm-up/warm-down pool.
There are very few 50 meter pools in the state of Illinois, and the ones that exist (Northwestern’s has very limited seating, while the facility at the University of Illinois-Chicago has seating on only two sides of the competition course) don’t meet the seating standards for the high school state championship meet.