St. Charles, Illinois Planning New $19 Million Natatorium

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.

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BaldingEagle
4 years ago

While we’re at it: it’s an embarrassment that UI doesn’t have a men’s team. In the state of Illinois, this makes absolutely no sense.

Gary P
Reply to  BaldingEagle
4 years ago

Given all the in-state swimming talent, it’s a downright tragedy.

Doug
Reply to  BaldingEagle
4 years ago

I don’t know if you’ve seen the UIUC pool, but there’s no way it can support both a men’s and women’s team that’s in a power five conference. Also the school already puts enough money into all the other sports teams to begin with.

Hood Rich
4 years ago

Being an Illinois swimming alum I was excited to see this. Previous long course state meets have been hosted at different locations that don’t allow athletes the proper warm up and warm down time and only allow short 15 minute breaks. Also the short course championships are held at UIC which is starting to become quite run down and old. This new facility can easily provide athletes with the opportunity to compete in an elite level environment. The only downside to this is that it can’t hold IHSA state meets there due to the three sides seating rule and keeping the history of alternating between New Trier and Evanston, which happen to be two of the oldest pools in the… Read more »

SWIMFAN
4 years ago

I can assure you that no such “3-sided” requirement exists. The only requirement is seating for a minimum of 1200 spectators. Right now, Evanston and New Trier fit that bill. The fact that they happen to have 3-sided seating is a coincidence.

Osd
Reply to  SWIMFAN
4 years ago

Correct. Uic may hold 1200 but not many of them face the 25 yard pool. The next largest capacities are pools like Stevenson, Neuqua, Metea, maybe Barrington – i don’t think any of them hold more than 800.

Ole 99
4 years ago

I’m glad the state is getting a great new facility. St. Charles is a great place. It is not however, an ideal location for this type of facility. Probably the hardest burb in the metro area to get to. No highway anywhere near there. They are going to build an equivalent hockey facility at Route 59 and I-88. Wish they could swap sites.

Midwesterner
Reply to  Ole 99
4 years ago

It will be just north of i88 on Kirk Road. Pretty easily accessed from the highway.

Ole 99
Reply to  Midwesterner
4 years ago

The site is barely closer to 88 than it is to 90. It’s easy access in that it’s a straight shot. Not so much easy access since it’s no where near the highway.

Gary P
Reply to  Ole 99
4 years ago

Granted, St.Charles isn’t convenient to any expressway, but it’s not THAT hard to get to, especially the near-east side where this venue will be located. There are far fewer hockey venues than pools in the Chicago area, and, therefore, a hockey venue is more of a metro-wide draw day-to-day than any swimming facility will ever be. While this facility has been designed to accommodate large championship-format meets, it is going to rely on local residents for utilization the other +/- 350 days a year. With that in mind, St Charles, with its rich swimming history, l is the perfect location for a facility like this.

BaldingEagle
4 years ago

Is there REALLY a 3-sided seating rule? As others have commented, facilities like Jamail, IUPUI, Minnesota, Georgia Tech, Greensboro, King County, Iowa, Tennessee, etc etc etc wouldn’t be in the rotation to host the meet, though those facilities have been the sites of NCAA’s, B1G, SEC, USA Nationals, Juniors, World Trials, Olympic Trials…

I think that the real issue is that the 50m (read “FAST,” “NEW,” “MODERN,”) pools in the state don’t have enough seating by numbers. NTHS and ETHS have three-sided seating, yes, but also big capacity. These seating capacities are probably bigger than all the other pools. I’ve been to an IL HS championship, and the place is PACKED. HS championships everywhere are packed. If 1200 spectators want… Read more »

Swim mom
Reply to  BaldingEagle
4 years ago

Have you read the rules? It is a requirement.

Osd
Reply to  Swim mom
4 years ago

NO. There is no rule stating three sided seating. The place is completely packed on Friday. You wait 7-8 hours as a spectator to get a seat. Maybe only uic could swat enough people- no other pool in Illinois can host it because they don’t have the seats so parents could watch their kid swim at state. But there is No 3 sided rule- just no other options to host the meet.

Roll tide
Reply to  Swim mom
4 years ago

It is not a rule just need seating for 1200. Nothing in the rule book. Both schools just happen to have it.

My friends cousin heard...
Reply to  Swim mom
4 years ago

Where is this rule written? Looked at IHSA Terms & Conditions for swimming and it only mentions site hosts with dates, not reasoning for sites. I know the Aquatic director at New Trier, he (and a lot of others at NT) would be glad to not host the meet.

Midwesterner
4 years ago

So excited for this project to begin. The immediate area in suburban Chicagot has very few long course pools. The demand for club practice lanes will be overwhelming, as many teams currently bus their swimmers to UIC in Chicago or the RecPlex in Pleasant Prairie, WI in the summer.

mcgillrocks
4 years ago

I would say there are “very few” 50m pools in Illinois. Pretty much off the top of my head, I can list the following:

Northwestern
University of Chicago
University of Illinois at Chicago
University of Illinois (x2)
Decatur
Springfield
Palatine
Lincoln Way High Schools (x2-4, not sure)

Granted, a lot of them aren’t readily useful for competition, never mind HS State, but you only need a 25 yard pool anyway for state.

James Bogen
Reply to  mcgillrocks
4 years ago

Several more pools off the top of my head:
Lake Bluff
Schaumburg
Centennial Pool
Stevenson High School

Swim mom
Reply to  James Bogen
4 years ago

St Charles Norris Center (indoor). They have an outdoor one as well on St. CHARLES.

Ole 99
Reply to  James Bogen
4 years ago

The mistake by the lake … aka the Lake Bluff park district pool was terrible 30 years ago, can’t imagine its aged well since then.

It has always boggled my mind how Naperville doesn’t have evan an outdoor 50M pool.

On a positive note, Libertyville High School is building an indoor 50M pool, but like Stevenson will not have the three sides of seating.

Osd
Reply to  mcgillrocks
4 years ago

The Lincoln way pools are 50 yards not 50 meters. You left off hinsdale Quincy and st Charles for 50 meter pools.

Joe Schroeder
Reply to  mcgillrocks
4 years ago

Lincoln Way pools are not 50m. they are 2x 25Y
Did Decatur recently close their 50m pool?
UIC Does have seating on 3 sides of the SC & LC competition pools.
Evanston & New Trier are _not_ great venues for the spectators, IMHO.

Hood Rich
Reply to  mcgillrocks
4 years ago

Cant forget about Stevenson. This new pool could result in the IHSA polo committee moving the state championships to this new facility and having the boys and girls tournaments in separate locations.

dmswim
Reply to  mcgillrocks
4 years ago

As I mentioned above, SIU-Carbondale and the Chuck Fruit Aquatics Center in Edwardsville have 50 meter courses.

horninco
4 years ago

So it’s more important to have seating on three sides than have a warm up pool? I guess the venues for the 2010, 2008, 2004, 2000, 1996, 1992, etc Olympic Games don’t meet the high standards of the IHSA?

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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