This weekend, for the first time in its recent history, the city of Fremont will be hosting a swimming conference.
The brand new Dillon Family Aquatic Center at the YMCA will play host to the YMCA State Meet on March 10, where hundreds of swimmers from YMCA teams across the street will compete in a state-of-the-art, Olympic-sized pool. Hundreds of family members will fill the bleachers to cheer on their kids, while others can spend their time in a “crash area”—a gym behind the pool that will be outfitted with a live feed of the events and chairs.
In February of next year, the new Aquatic Center will host another big conference—the Heartland Athletic Conference Swimming and Diving Championships, a three-day regional competition for high school swim teams that Fremont has participated in, but could never host before the new facility was built.
“I’d have to look back but it’s been a long time—I don’t know if we’ve ever hosted a conference here [in Fremont],” said Fremont Public Schools Activities Director Scott Anderson. “If we have it’s been a number of years ago.”
In the Dillon Family Aquatic Center, which officially opened earlier this year, Fremont’s swimming community sees a dynamic new home that could create opportunities for growth in the sport.
The Aquatic Center is already the headquarters to four different teams: the Fremont High School Team, the YMCA and USA-affiliated Fremont Area Swim Team (FAST), the Midland University swim teams and a special Olympics team. And in a new facility, some of these teams see new capabilities, and potentially a new chapter in Fremont swimming.
“I think the excitement is that, in the ’70s, Fremont used to be a really powerful swim team,” said Jerry Rinne, the president and CEO of the Fremont Family YMCA. “I think we’re going to definitely see a huge resurgence in the swim teams.”
The new pool is bred for competition—it’s a 50-meter, Olympic-sized Myrtha pool, which is the same type used for the Olympic trials in Omaha two years ago. The Myrtha pool has a reputation as one of the world’s fastest, designed to reduce the impact of waves that could slow swimmers, according to Rinne. Fremont’s pool boasts 12 25-yard lanes and six 50-meter lanes that can accommodate more swimmers, both competitive and recreational, than previously.
The entire facility is 30,000 square feet and includes a hot tub, a steam room, a splash pad and more.
A transformative part of the new facility is the space that’s reserved for spectator seating. The new viewing area can accommodate almost 400 people, Rinne said.
“Our other two swimming pools that we had, the one is a 50-year old pool and it doesn’t have enough room for seating,” Rinne said. “Once we put bleachers on there, that first row is almost hanging over into the swimming pool.”
The additional space is what has allowed the facility to start hosting higher level conferences like the Heartland Athletic Conference and the YMCA State Meet, Rinne said.
These bigger conferences bring a higher level of visibility to Fremont’s swimming program regionally, but the additional seating also gets the local community more involved. Swim teams can use the facility to host smaller, more frequent competitions, like dual meets.
“That’s the big thing when you’re trying to promote swimming and stuff in your community, is being able to have these meets,” Anderson of FPS said. “Our swimmers haven’t been able to have a Parents’ Night at a meet because we just haven’t really had any home meets. To be able to do that and be able to recognize them at the pool is going to be really a big deal to help promote swimming in our high school.”
The Fremont High School swim team has already been on a recent upswing, with a number of its swimmers breaking school records and qualifying for the state meet this past year, Anderson said. He hopes that the new facility will help extend that success.
“They’re excited; this is a huge deal for our swimming program,” Anderson said. “Obviously when you go from, more or less, just having a pool you can practice in, to all of a sudden having the best facility in the area, it’s a big deal.”
Anderson said it’s too early to tell if the facility is attracting more swimmers to the program. But David Streubel, the head coach of FAST, says he’s seen more interest from potential swimmers than usual.
Between emails and word of mouth, Streubel has heard from around 40 people who signaled initial interest in joining the team for its summer session since the pool’s opening. He usually signs about five to 10 new kids a year, he said.
“Our numbers are going to increase like crazy,” Streubel said. “The pool itself is kind of helping me recruit.”
He also hopes that the pool will help FAST develop into one of the best YMCA and USA-affiliated teams in the state.
Streubel argues that his program’s growth could indirectly benefit the FPS program because it gets younger age groups involved as well.
“My team’s kind of the feeder program to the high school,” Streubel said. “So it’ll just increase our numbers on the high school team as well.”
Rinne also believes that a resurgence in swimming could help the community at large, especially with big, multi-day conferences like the Heartland Athletic Conference.
“Look at the economic impact that it’s going to have on the community, where people are going to be spending the night, they’re going to go to the restaurants, they’re going to be getting food,” Rinne said. “It’s just going to circle around and make a big impact on the community.”
He imagines a future where Fremont hosts the conference every year.
But while the future looks bright, Anderson hopes that it will, in part, reflect the past, when Fremont’s swimming team was dominant.
“A lot of people remember how good Fremont swimming really was in the past, and I think this is going to help to really give our program a kick start,” he said.