New $24 million to $27 million aquatics center proposed for southwest Fort Wayne

This architectural rendering shows the front of the proposed Northern Indiana Aquatics Center, which a group has proposed building in southwest Allen County. (Courtesy of Northern Indiana Aquatics Center Foundation)
This architectural rendering shows the back side of the proposed Northern Indiana Aquatics Center, which a group has proposed building in southwest Allen County. (Courtesy of Northern Indiana Aquatics Center Foundation)

A local group hopes to raise money to build a new “community-focused, full-service” aquatics center on Fort Wayne’s southwest side.

The Northern Indiana Aquatics Center Foundation (NIACF) announced the initial planning phase Monday for the project, which has an estimated cost of $24 million to $27 million, said Allison Brown, executive director of the Fort Wayne-based foundation.

“We know it’s going to take the entire community pulling together to get it done,” Brown, of Fort Wayne, said during a phone interview Wednesday.

According to information on the NIACF website, https://www.niacf.com, the proposed aquatics center would include:

• Learn-to-Swim programs

• 10-lane, 50-meter-long competition pool to accommodate competitive year-round swimming

• Separate diving well with 1- and 3-meter springboards and a diving tower with 1-, 3-, 5-, 7.5- and 10-meter platforms

• Heated rehabilitation/therapy pool

• Physical therapy office space

• Masters Swimming and Lap Swim

• Dry space for aquatic fitness cross-training needs

• Pro-shop for aquatic fitness equipment and apparel

• Spectator seating for 1,500 people

The NIACF hopes to raise the money needed for the project during the next year and then finalize design plans and break ground, Brown said. Construction will take a year to complete, resulting in a target opening date of June 2020.

Brown said the group hasn’t raised any money yet, but Southwest Allen County Schools (SACS) has agreed to commit a “significant amount” of funds toward the aquatics center’s operating costs.

“We are both pleased and encouraged by the efforts of NIACF to build a community aquatics center of this caliber,” Philip Downs, SACS superintendent, said in the NIACF’s news release about the proposed project.

SACS operates a natatorium at Summit Middle School, but it “is not only limited in size and scope, but also is in need of significant maintenance that will require equally significant financial investment,” Downs said in the news release. “This proposed natatorium will enable SACS to lease space for its growing aquatics program, ultimately creating a financial savings for the district and its taxpayers.”

SACS officials also believe construction of the aquatics center may allow them to use more of the space at Summit Middle for classrooms, the news release said.

The NIACF actively will seek support from major donors, sponsors and individual donors, Brown said. People should be able to donate within a few days by going to the group’s website, https://www.niacf.com. Interested donors or sponsors also can call her at 403-9470.

The NIACF wants to make the center a destination for people in all of northern Indiana, so organizers ideally would like it located where it is visible from Interstate 69, said Brown, a former paralympic swimmer who has one child in competitive swimming, one in competitive diving and two learning to swim.

Along with competitive swimmers and divers, she also wants the aquatics center to serve people with disabilities and those who want to compete at the national level. The center also would offer learn-to-swim classes, physical therapy and fitness programs.

The NIACF expects to hold public meetings to provide people with more information about the aquatics center, but no meeting dates have been set yet, she said.

People can learn a lot about the proposal, however, by going to the NIACF website at https://www.niacf.com, she added.

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