Top 10 Must-Visit Sites for a Swim Meet in the United States

Note: Belmont probably would have been on this list, were it not for being recently shut down for a complete remodel. We’ll have to wait until the new pool is open to see if it can recapture the feel of the old natatorium.

10. Student Rec Center Natatorium, College Station, Texas – The Texas A&M University pool has been host to a few major meets, including both the men’s and women’s events during the 2009 suited years. The Aggies always put on a good show, though, including appearances by their pep band, and enough goodies to get the students to turn out pretty well for just about any meet (especially for the big rivalry meets against Texas.) Besides NCAA Championships, it’s one of only five American pools to have hosted a stop on the FINA World Series Circuit. There are few things in swimming that’s more chilling than members of the Corps of Cadets bugling the National Anthem from the diving platforms.

Texas A&M buglers perch atop the diving platforms in one of the most spine-chilling spectacles in swimming. (Photo: Janna Schulze)

Texas A&M buglers perch atop the diving platforms in one of the most spine-chilling spectacles in swimming. (Photo: Janna Schulze)

University of Georgia Pool (Photo courtesy of the University of Georgia Athletic Association.)

9. Gabrielsen Natatorium, Athens, Georgia –  The Georgia women have won 82 straight meets at home at the Gabrielsen Natatorium, and they routinely pack 500 fans in for regular-season dual meets. The heated rivalries of the SEC spill over into swimming, and huge skylights on the ceiling result in great lighting.

8. Evanston Township/New Trier High School, Illinois – These two pools are relatively ancient – each is over 60 years old. They are shallow, and lack the state-of-the-art bells and whistles that create the modern “fast pool”. Evanston isn’t even an 8-lane pool – it can only fit a final of 6. Yet, somehow, these two pools that have hosted the State Championship meet for the last 50 years or so still produce National Records. With fans surrounding the pools on three sides, and an overflow crowd almost on top of the pool, the intensity of the atmosphere is completely unmatched.

The Evanston Township Pool in suburban Chicago may be only 6 lanes, but the atmosphere is unparalleled in high school swimming. (Photo: Evanston Township)

The Evanston Township Pool in suburban Chicago may be only 6 lanes, but the atmosphere is unparalleled in high school swimming. (Photo: Evanston Township)

7. Avery Aquatics Center, Palo Alto, California –  The home of Stanford’s aquatic teams is nice, very nice. Some consider it the best outdoor swimming arena in the nation for swimming fans to enjoy race action. Just look at stands towering over either side of the pool. Who wouldn’t want to race there before a packed house, and Stanford does fills the seats.

Courtesy of Stanford Athletics

With four NCAA Team Titles and a long history of producing 50 NCAA champions, swimming is a top tier sport at the University. Avery Aquatic Center hosted the 2011 Junior and Senior Nationals, and it’s played hosted to US Olympic Teams as a training camp, 2004 and 2008. The facility is spectacular, with a glut of pools, and one designed specifically to create a high-intensity collegiate atmosphere.

6. International Swimming Hall of Fame Pool, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida – Location, location, location. That’s the mantra in real estate. What the International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF) Pool lacks in design is offset by its vacation destination appeal.  Ft. Lauderdale had been the YMCA Spring Nationals go-to location for decades (until the event moved to Greensboro, NC). Families, by the thousands, made it the vacation-meet for fun in the sun and fast swimming. Ft. Lauderdale has hosted countless USA Swimming Nationals and Junior National Championships over the years. Ample hotel space within walking distance should be noted, and yes, we can’t forget the beach, a mere 30 yards away. ISHOF HQ has always been a draw for hardcore swimmers and families (though the HQ may be moving). Much credit goes to the tireless work of ISHOF CEO Bruce Wigo, the professor of swimming. On any random day, you could walk through the ISHOF doors and be entranced by his entertaining tales of swimming intrigue and greatness.

Courtesy of Swim Fort Lauderdale

Georgia Tech Aquatics Center, Atlanta, Georgia

Georgia Tech Aquatics Center, Atlanta, Georgia

5. Georgia Tech Aquatics Center, Atlanta, Georgia – Georgia Tech hit the jackpot when Atlanta got the 1996 Summer Olympic Games. The result: the Georgia Tech Aquatics Center. Since the Atlanta Games this facility has hosted ACC Champs, NCAA Zone Diving Champs, and, perhaps, the best made-for-TV event in swimming, the 2011 Mutual of Omaha Duel in the Pool.

4. University Aquatics Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota – This is a personal favorite, as the pool has a great fieldhouse-style architecture. It’s big, but it’s not so huge, and fans are close enough to the pool, as to capture the noise from the fans that line both sides of the pool. The NCAA loves this pool to; despite the chance for chilly temperatures in March, the pool will host the 2014 NCAA Championships for the women, which will be its 21st hosted NCAA Championship meet. The pool got a mostly cosmetic renovation this past year, including a brand new scoreboard, and some new overhead skylights to give it even more natural lighting.

Dorothy Sheppard Aquatic Center University of Minnesota (photo: Mike Lewis, Ola Vista Photography)

3. CenturyLink Center, Omaha, Nebraska (featured photo, credit: Tim Binning, theswimpictures) – The CenturyLink Center didn’t have all of the bells and whistles that many of their competitors to host the 2016 Olympic Trials did. What they did provide, however, was a huge basketball-style arena that could be filled to the brim for finals sessions. One need not look much further than the spectacular venue shots done by Mike Lewis at this year’s Trials to see what’s so amazing about this place (see the headline shot.) The flash and the flair designed to host rock concerts and high level college basketball instead turns its spotlight to swimming, flames and all.

2. Lee and Joe Jamail Swim Center, Austin, TexasIf you swim, you have probably swum at the Lee and Joe Jamail Swim Center in Austin, Texas.  Grand Prix competitions, Nationals, Junior Nationals, Olympic Trials, NCAA Championships, they’ve all been hosted in Austin. Since 1978 this 50 meter temple to swimming has been the go-to for elites and rising stars. History? The Texas Swim Center has it in spades, but in the interest of keeping this brief, we’ll drop one moment in time, March 30th, 2001, when a 15 year old Michael Phelps broke his first world record in the 200 meters butterfly at the World Championship Trials, 1:54.92.

Texas Invite venue


1. IU Natatorium, Indianapolis, Indiana – The biggest permanent swimming facility in the United States is perhaps home to the bulk of its history in the last 30 years. This pool on the campus of IUPUI is not just A natatorium. It is THE natatorium. All fast racers come to Indy. Since opening to 1982, the pool according to its official website has seen 103 American Records and 15 World Records. It has hosted 13 men’s NCAA Championship meets, 13 women’s NCAA Championship meets, and through an agreement with the NCAA will see several more over the next decade for all divisions. They hosted 8 of the first historic 14 women’s NCAA Championship meets after full inclusion in the 80’s. The history here is just unreal – the pool designed to be a mecca of American swimming has done just that, hosting four Olympic Trials meets out of five between 1984 and 2000.


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82 Comments on "Top 10 Must-Visit Sites for a Swim Meet in the United States"

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I know Braden wanted to put Texas Swim Center on the top, but did not want to be accused of a bias. There is no place like that anywhere. It is a magical place for simmers, for officials, for parents. You cannot throw a swim cap without hitting a gold medal Olympian when you go to a meet. Example, I took our son to a UT meet this year; Branden Hansen was doing commentary; Dave Walters was next to us and Dale Rodgers above us. I took him to meet all of them. On the way out we run into Ricky Berens. Our son was overwhelmed…He also swims best times at the UT center and he swims about 10 meets… Read more »

Why would it be bias if Braden put TSC at the top of the list? The guy went to Texas A&M.

Kirk Nelson

One minor correction is that the pool in Indy is called the IU Natatorium now. Not sure when or why the IUPUI was dropped in favor of just IU, but anything official now refers to it as “IU Natatorium.”

Actually, IU has its own natatorium. The one in Indy is still IUPUI

Sean Justice

If you haven’t ever been to Canton, Ohio where the Ohio State High School Championships are, it is a great venue. It gets loud and the fans are packed in. In the 90s, it had some outstanding swims!!

If Braden had put Texas A&M at number 1, I would have to agree. it is a great place swim as long as it is regulation length :-P.

Just happened on this article by chance and, as a Chicago-area HS swimming alum 10+ years out, was really happy to see the Evanston inclusion & pic (recognized it by sight while scrolling pretty fast, even despite the wide-angle distortion). I try to stay away from these swimming sites to avoid the nostalgia trap as I’m now well out of swimming, but just can’t ignore the temptation to comment. I can’t tell if the author is from IL, but he seems not to be, so I’m all that much more impressed that it was singled out for HS, and so aptly described. I can’t help but comment that the wide-angle shot (obviously taken from an early individual prelim heat), while… Read more »
Mark Schilling

Here here! I swam at a few state champ meets there in the mid 90s and it was an amazing place! The pool itself wasn’t anything amazing but it was magically great place for meets. I swear that St. X would bring 500 students up to that meet! Crazy!

I’m a bit biased, but I can’t imagine how the atmosphere inside the C.T. Branin Natatorium for the Ohio High School State Championships can be topped anywhere in the USA. This is a great picture, but it only shows two of the three sides of fan seating:

Even crazier is the way officials hand out numbers at 7:30 a.m. for the general admission seating when the doors open at 9 a.m. The first 500 in line get a number letting them enter first, and so fans start lining up at before midnight. Last year our team’s parents showed up at 3:30 a.m. and we were already at No. 240. Craziness!

Sean Justice

Great videos!! I loved swimming there when the swimming was under one division….it sometimes took a junior national cut to make it back in finals!!

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of 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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