West Fargo Dives Deep with New Aquatic Center

West Fargo Dives Deep with New Aquatic Center

West Fargo Dives Deep with New Aquatic Center

By: Erin Hemme Froslie
 

If you’ve ever wanted to swim in the same lanes as the elite, you don’t have to travel far. Go and splash away at the Hulbert Aquatic Center in West Fargo. The center’s 54-meter pool was used in the 2016 Olympic Trials in Omaha, Nebraska. It’s where swimmers like Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky, Ryan Murphy and Lilly King battled for a spot on the Olympic team roster before gold medals were draped around their necks.

Now the pool is the centerpiece of a community aquatic center that features flexible pool space for competition, fun, water safety education, training, exercise, and more. There’s something for 
everyone from splashing toddlers to high-level competitors.
 
The center’s highlights include a competitive pool; a warm water lesson pool perfect for swimming lessons and water activities like yoga and aerobics; and a dryland training room for divers.
“Our supporters knew there was a need for an indoor swimming facility that would serve different ages and interests,” says Chad Day, the center’s director. “We’re always looking for ways to invite people here.”
The Hulbert Aquatic Center was a long-held dream for swimming enthusiasts in the metro area who wanted to boost growing interest in 
swimming and diving.
 
UP Aquatics, a regional group of swim supporters, won the bid to purchase the Olympic Trials pool that had been assembled at the Century Link Center in Omaha. Historically, these pools are auctioned off, taken apart and moved to permanent locations. The one that landed in West Fargo was purchased to upgrade the pool at L.E. Berger Elementary School.
 
“The previous pool had been built in the ’70s,” Day says. “It was good for its time, but it had outlived its usefulness.”
 
The new pool – equipped with additional amenities like six regulation diving boards and infrared heaters to keep divers comfortable – is home to the West Fargo Flyers, a private swimming club, and West Fargo’s two-soonto-be-three high school swim teams. Each high school varsity team has a dedicated locker room and coach’s office.

 

The pool is a favorite among competitive swimmers and their fans. For swimmers, it’s popular because it’s considered a “fast” pool – dispersed water flows through a drainage system that is slightly lower than the pool instead of bouncing off walls and building turbulent waves. The result? Faster times.
 
For fans, the center is designed to hold approximately 1,100 spectators. Video boards allow them to view event results and highlights from any seat in the facility.
But the fun doesn’t stop with competitive swimming.
 
Moveable bulkheads mean the pool can be arranged in nine different ways, making space for community activities. Open swim is scheduled three times a day for those who want to swim laps. For those who want to celebrate with friends, book a weekend birthday party. But plan ahead: parties are booked out six to eight weeks in advance. 
 
One of the more popular community activities has been a quarterly inflatable swim event. Kids and adults alike purchase tickets to play on a floating obstacle course. Participants jump, bounce, splash, and giggle with glee. The event has quickly sold out each time it’s held.
 
Water safety education also drives much of the center’s programming.
 
More recently, Day has joined with other local aquatic directors in addressing drownings among recent immigrant and minority populations. Research by the Centers for Disease Control shows that these groups are at greater, disproportionate risk of drowning. In 2018, the victims of five unintentional drownings in the Fargo-Moorhead area were either black, American Indian, recent immigrants, the children of recent immigrants, or a combination thereof.
 
To address the disparity, Hulbert Aquatic Center offers free swimming lessons to populations at higher risk of drowning. So far, about 40 youths have completed sessions.
 
“We’d like to see more, but it’s a step in the right direction,” Day says. In addition, Essentia Health provided life jackets to the center and other pools in the region for recreational swimmers who can’t pass a basic swim test. This allows kids who can’t swim to enjoy pools safely.
 
“We’re excited about all the collaborations and what we can do together,” Day says. 
 
The center is also excited about opening its lanes to some of the biggest names in swimming.
In August, the aquatic center will host the USA Swimming Central Zone Championships. More than 800 athletes from eight different states will descend on the West Fargo pool to compete for a chance to go on to the national championships. 
 
The aquatic center has also submitted a bid for TYR Pro Swim Series events in 2020. If chosen, West Fargo will be hosting some of the same names that will become household names during the Summer Olympics later that year.
 
“We didn’t exist two years ago and now we’re looking to draw some of the biggest names in the sport,” Day says. “It’s like opening a basketball arena and drawing LeBron James there.”
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