The YMCA of Greater Des Moines targeted three main goals when it opened its door to a new Olympic-sized pool at the Wellmark YMCA in downtown Des Moines in March.
The organization wanted to enhance swimming and aquatic programs for members, elevate competing swimming in central Iowa and position Des Moines to compete for major regional and national swimming events.
The final goal has now been accomplished.
Some of the nation’s top swimmers will descend upon Des Moines later this year when the MidAmerican Energy Aquatic Center at the Wellmark YMCA will host 35 events in the TYR Pro Swim Series from March 6-9.
“This is a huge moment for us,” said Leisha Barcus, the CEO and president of the YMCA of Greater Des Moines. “The three years that the community put into making this building happen and now it’s paying off.”
The event is the first big get for the pool, which opened last March and has since been the host site for many youth sporting events, deep water training for triathletes and even a water polo tournament. Barcus said the pool has even helped boost membership and unify the organization’s youth swim team.
Now, the 50-meter pool and venue that seats 1,200 people will host an event that typically includes USA Swimming National team members, National Junior Team members and many of the top-50 ranked swimmers in the world.
Olympic gold medalist Kathleen Baker is expected to be among the competitors and marveled at the pool during a Monday press conference at it.
“It’s amazing,” Baker said. “You’re so lucky to have an amazing facility in the middle of downtown. I struggled with finding facilities to swim in, in my hometown. The kids here are so lucky to have so much lane space and a 50-meter Olympic sized pool to train in because it’s so important as you get older and older to be able to compete at the highest level — training faculties are a huge aspect of that.”
Catch Des Moines President and CEO Greg Edwards said they expect between 400 and 600 swimmers to be in town for the event. He also believes Des Moines will benefit from it greatly, estimating the event having a $2.1 million economic impact on the community.
“All of those big Olympic sports are targets for us, and this is the first major one that we’ve landed,” Edwards said.
Edwards hopes it the first of many and that the event can continue coming to Des Moines, but how the first time goes may dictate that.
“Our goal is to be able to provide the very best venue, in and outside the water, for this event so that we get a reputation nationally that we are successful at hosting these types of things,” Barcus said.