What do Americans love more than a Top 10 list? I would argue, not much outside of puppy dogs, apple pie, and nauseating reality television. So, to kick off the summer swim season, the website SwimSwam.com recently released their contribution to this slice of Americana with their following list of the Top 10 “Must Visit Sites for a Swim Meet in the United States.”
- Texas A&M’s Student Rec Center Natatorium – College Station, TX
- University of Georgia’s Gabrielsen Natatorium – Athens, GA
- Evanston Township / New Trier High School – Evanston, IL
- Stanford University’s Avery Aquatics Center – Palo Alto, CA
- International Swimming Hall of Fame Pool – Ft. Lauderdale, FL
- Georgia Tech Aquatics Center – Atlanta, GA
- University of Minnesota’s University Aquatics Center – Minneapolis, MN
- CenturyLink Center – Omaha Nebraska
- University of Texas’s Lee and Joe Jamail Swim Center – Austin, TX
- IU Natatorium – Indianapolis, IN
So what makes these facilities stand out? One is history. It is easy to get goose bumps standing on the pool deck and staring at the record board at the Texas Swim Center, or looking up at National Championship banners from the stands at the University of Georgia, or reading the names that adorn the walls in Indianapolis of the athletes who have had their Olympic dreams fulfilled at that venue, or swimming in the same outside lane as Kieren Perkins did when he snuck into the 1500 finals at the ’96 Olympics in Atlanta to win his second consecutive gold medal and securing his place in distance swimming history. For the historically-conscious swimmer and fan, these types of venues are in a category all to themselves. Fortunately for Americans with a swimming history that spans from Johnny Weissmuller to Michael Phelps, there are an abundance of facilities from which to experience.
Certainly atmosphere plays an enormous role in the overall experience from the spectator to the athlete. And it’s hard to argue that many have done it better than in Omaha at the most recent U.S. Olympic Trials. Many top U.S. athletes have said that the tension and anticipation is greater for Olympic Trails than the actual Olympic Games. So any venue hosting Trails already gets the benefit of an absolutely electric environment. But add to that the light shows and pyrotechnics which were on display in Omaha, the result is a truly memorable experience.
But you don’t have to have deep pockets or on the campus of a nationally recognized university or equipped for a pyrotechnics display to be able to be proud home of a great aquatic venue. Many swimmers and spectators alike will fondly recall their most memorable swim meets at intimate venues. The Evanston facility, #9 on the Top 10, is just such a facility. A low ceiling exponentially amplifies the raucous cheering and a horseshoe seating arrangement with parents, coaches, teammates, and fans, seemingly on top of the pool more than makes up for the “slower” shallow water and limited lanes (6) at the 60+ year old venue. There are many similar venues that did not make the Top 10 list but are very comparable to Evanston both in terms of intimacy and excitement including the 80 year old pool at Yale University and the C.T. Branin facility in Canton, OH which can be packed with 2100 fans during Ohio State High School Championships.