The Hawkeyes’ new nest


David Scrivner/The Daily Iowan
The swimming pool is seen in the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center on Monday. The swimming pool will contain 787,000 galloons of water.
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Bob Stein struggled to find the words.

Walking around the new Campus Recreation and Wellness Center, the former Iowa swimmer-turned-published-author looked on in amazement.

“I’m blown away,” he said. “I have imagination, but this is unbelievable. This is beyond my wildest dreams. I tried to imagine all of this, but I couldn’t get this far.”

Members of the Iowa swimming and diving program will likely feel the same way when the $69 million project is completed this summer. It still takes some imagination to picture the finished product.

Tiling the 787,000 gallon pool began on Feb. 2, and the building is scheduled to be completed as planned, said Steve Otto, a construction engineer for UI Facilities Management.

The smell of sawdust still looms in the air, and many of the indoor walls remain incomplete. But soon, it will all come together.

And athletics officials are psyched. The Hawkeyes plan to host the Big Ten championships in the center in either 2012 or 2013.

“We’re going to have one of the great facilities in the country,” Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta said.

Features for the center include a 9-by-26-foot high quality video board and a 50-meter Olympic-length swimming pool with another pool for diving.

The separate pools allow for better temperature control. Swimmers prefer cooler water because it’s easier to train in, and divers like warmer water.

Because the swimmers and divers are unable to carry keys or key-cards in their suits, the facility will use a palm scanner for access to the teams’ locker rooms. Iowa swimming coach Marc Long said the security device is fairly common in new rec centers.

A big bonus of the center? Hopefully, prized recruits.

Freshman swimmer Mitch Taylor said facilities are a major factor in choosing which schoolto swim for.

“It’s definitely what recruits think about,” he said. “When freshmen come in, they’re excited. They’re going to want a bigger stage to compete in. They’re going to look at the pool, and I think it’s going to help a lot.”

The new pool size will be a drastic difference from the small Field House facilities. The building is by far the oldest swimming facility in the Big Ten, which meant Iowa was the only school in the conference without an Olympic-size pool.

“[The Field House] is antiquated compared to the rest of the conference,” swimming coach Marc Long said. “Currently, one-third of our practices are in a 23-yard pool, so we actually train in a course that’s too short, and we don’t have any access to long course. And the divers don’t have much to work with, either. Just to have a facility like this puts us on par with the rest of the Big Ten.”

Both Long and Recreational Services aquatics director Phil Julson said having a facility that could be mutually beneficial to Recreational Services and collegiate athletics was a key aspect of the project.

“It just shows a great commitment from the entire university and the state of Iowa,” Long said. “That’s big in itself to show that kind of support to a non-revenue sport. … The UI is going to be opened up to thousands of new prospective students, not just student-athletes.”

For Barta and the athletics department, building the new facility is about giving Iowa swimmers and divers a chance to compete at the highest level.

“One of my mantras is if you’re going to wear the Black and Gold, whether you’re revenue producing or non-revenue producing, you’re going to represent the Hawkeyes,” he said. “We want our student-athletes to have great facilities to give them a chance to compete for championships.”

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