Filling up an Olympic-sized 50-meter swimming pool isn’t something that can be done in a matter of hours – it’s quite the operation.
On Jan. 20 and 21, the long endeavor took place inside of the Dillon Family YMCA Aquatic Center, which is scheduled for a Feb. 6 ribbon-cutting ceremony at the facility from 4-5:30 p.m.
Over two days, more than 700,000 gallons of water were dumped into the swimming pool. There is still quite a bit of work to be completed before the facility will be fully operational, but watching the water level rise gave those involved with the project – one that’s been in the works since as early as 2005 – a massive sense of accomplishment.
“When they first fill it up they have to fill up the pipes, fill up the surge tanks, and with all that you’re looking at over 700,000 gallons of water,” said Fremont Family YMCA CEO Jerry Rinne. “It’s a couple day process. They actually had to fill it up, then drain it a little to make a couple repairs – which they knew they might have to do – but now it’s all the way full."
The $15.2 million dollar project -- $14 million of which has been raised -- covers expenses for the Dillon Family YMCA Aquatic Center and renovating the area where the current lap pool and recreational pool reside, he said.
The new 30,000 square-foot facility houses one body of water with six 50-meter lanes running east and west, and 12, 25-yard lanes that will accommodate competitive and recreational swimmers at the same time.
In addition, there’s seating for upward of 400 people, two locker rooms, a hot tub, steam room, family changing rooms, a splash pad and diving well.
Now that the main pool area is reaching completion, the current lap pool will soon be transformed into a 5,000-square-foot free weights and CrossFit training area and the current instructional pool will be filled in and covered with turf, providing an approximately 6,000-square-foot multi-purpose area where numerous classes and activities can be completed.
Rinne estimates that work will begin with filling in the old lap pool and instructional pool tentatively within the next six months, and right now, conversations are taking place regarding how to transition swimmers into the new facility.
“Right now we are in the middle of swim lessons, and we didn’t want to take the kids out of this (instructional) pool halfway through and put them in a whole different environment,” he said. “Our transition just to get to the new pool is going to take a little bit of time.”
The plan is to keep the instructional pool open for a period of time to accommodate swimmers and swim lessons, said Dian Christensen-Hillis, newly hired director of aquatics for the Dillon Family YMCA Aquatic Center.
Currently, four swim teams utilize the current pools – YMCA Recreational, YMCA Competitive, Fremont High School and Special Olympics teams.
Rinne said that with Christensen-Hillis’ swimming background and networking capabilities that she was a natural fit for the job. Christensen-Hillis has served as assistant and head coach for multiple United States Special Olympic Swim teams, as well as serving as a US Ambassador for the Michael Phelps Foundation.
“I basically train in the US, but I do global trainings, too, for Special Olympic swimmers and coaches where I have stroke clinics working with them to raise the bar for them, and then to raise the bar for the coaches,” she said.
With the addition of the Dillon Family YMCA Aquatic Center, the YMCA is now approximately 240,000-square-feet, making it the largest square-foot Y facility in the world. At the end of January, Rinne said that the non-profit will have 10,800 members, and has the capacity to have as many as 12,000.
“We can handle that many, but if they all tried going into the Wellness Center at once or something like that we might be in trouble,” Rinne joked.
Several meets are already scheduled to be held inside of the aquatic center, including: the 400-athlete YMCA State Meet held March 10, a large recreational swim meet this summer and the Heartland Athletic Conference meet in 2019.
The 50-meter pool is very unique in that it’s only the second pool of its kind in the state of Nebraska – the University of Nebraska at Omaha has the only other one.
This means that that the capability is there to host any kind of meet, even the Olympic Swim Trials. While this won't happen, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility for Olympic-caliber athletes to train at the facility leading up to the 2020 Olympic Swim Trials held inside of Omaha’s CenturyLink Center.
“A lot of the elite swimmers that swim in those competitions want to find pool space that is away from the venue to train,” Christensen-Hillis said.
Added Rinne: “And it’s a Myrtha pool, which is the same pool that they will be swimming in, and that way they can get used to it.”
Not only will the new facility be a huge benefit to community members in terms of swim lessons provided, leisure activities and stirring up excitement about swimming, it will also benefit Fremont’s local economy.
“The economic impact this will have on the city will be tremendous,” Rinne said. “With the large swim meets we will have that will bring in a large number of people into the community. They will stay at our hotels, they will eat here, and they will buy stuff at the stores. Then you look at the amount of people we will bring in for swim lessons, not only from Fremont but from outside – people from North Bend, Arlington and other places.
“When they do that they will stop and shop, maybe pick up groceries, get gas and all sorts of things that makes an impact to our community.”
While first and foremost the pool is there to fulfill a need, it absolutely is an incredible sight.
“There is just this huge ‘awe’ factor when you walk in there, I mean, I can’t even imagine being a little swimmer and walking in there and going, ‘oh my gosh I want to learn to swim,” Christensen-Hillis said. “Every day you walk in there and you just have a new appreciation of what we have.”
Because of its size, the pool can be used for a variety of activities at one time, something lacking with the old pools, Rinne said.
“You can have the little kids taking swim lessons, and we can have some guys and ladies taking a water aerobics class, and then we can have our swim teams swimming in the lanes and then maybe some people doing something in another part (of the pool),” Rinne said. “So these little kids can see all the progression – from learning how to swim to doing some of these other things like joining the swim team."
Fremont has a reputation for taking swimming seriously, and that’s a credit to all the leaders in the swimming community emphasizing its benefits and its importance. Christensen-Hillis said that the new Dillon Family YMCA Aquatic Center takes it to an entirely different level.
“This is so impactful, and I won’t be here to see just how impactful it will be throughout a lifespan,” she said. “But what I do know is that the Y changes lives. When somebody can belong to a YMCA, what it does to your growth and your character is just amazing. It just stays with you.”