Construction starts on DuPage County aquatic center designed to build swimming skills for all ages and create Chicago-area destination for major swim competitions
[Westmont, IL] – For years, the Illinois Age Group State Championship meet has been held in Wisconsin, and this year in Indiana. Also, only two high school pools, both on Chicago’s North Shore, are capable of hosting the Illinois High School Association’s (IHSA) Swimming & Diving State Finals. Clearly, Illinois swimmers have a shortage of natatoriums for major events.
The tide, however, is turning, thanks to the FMC Natatorium at Ty Warner Park now under construction in the DuPage County community of Westmont, just over 20 miles west of downtown Chicago. The 71,000-square-foot facility, designed by Legat Architects, will not only give Illinois age group and senior swimmers a new home for its annual meet, but it will also provide a third option—the other two are over 80 years old—for hosting IHSA state meets. The facility will even be able to host national-level events. Additionally, the FMC Natatorium will become home to a traveling youth competitive swim team that previously lacked a dedicated pool.
In mid-December, over 200 members of the swimming community gathered in the Mallard Room at the Hilton Chicago/Oak Brook Hills Resort and Conference Center to celebrate the start of construction. Mary Ann and Mark Kaufman, founders of the not-for-profit FMC Aquatic Opportunities (with a nod to the Kaufman’s daughters; For My Children,) joined other dignitaries to introduce the natatorium.
“Many swim families have to travel to Wisconsin and Indiana for our Illinois state meets,” said Mary Ann Kaufman. “I think we’d all like to keep those swim dollars right here in Illinois.” The audience responded to her statement with resounding applause.
The Kaufmans stated that in addition to hosting major events, the FMC Natatorium at Ty Warner Park will become a regional destination that makes swimming accessible to as many children and adults as possible. FMC Natatorium plans to work with the Westmont Park District to offer classes to residents and neighboring communities. Programming will include offerings for children and adults, as well as individuals with special needs.
At the groundbreaking, U.S. Olympic swimmer David Sims talked about the role that swimming played in his life and related that to the FMC Natatorium’s potential to change lives.
He said, “No doubt about it, there will be kids who come to this pool and see things they’ve never seen before, and it may take them to places they’ve never been before.”
The project has been in the works since 2015 and construction is expected to finish in 2020.
FMC Natatorium Origins
Eighteen years ago, Ultimate Swimming coach Pierre Ruffin suggested that Mark and Mary Ann’s oldest daughter would be a strong addition to his swim team.
“Three swimming daughters later, and Pierre is with us here tonight,” said Mark Kaufman, founder and CEO of Athletico Physical Therapy, at the ceremony. “Without that little event, none of this could have happened.”
Mary Ann Kaufman said, “One of the reasons I wanted to build a pool was so Pierre and other coaches would always have a home for swimmers to find them.”
Clean, Contemporary, and Cost-effective
A small, core group of team members and Legat worked on the planning and design of the FMC Natatorium at Ty Warner Park for over three years.
The nine-lane, Olympic-size pool offers three sides of seating for up to 1,200 spectators. Those on the second level can stand at a long countertop and observe meets while enjoying a coffee or snacks from the concessions stand. The second floor also houses a full kitchen, eating area, entertainment room, swim shop, party room, and weight room.
On the first floor, a large window offers views between the competition and development pools. The smaller pool also has a parent lounge with a viewing window. There will be four locker rooms (two men’s and two women’s) divided between the pools.
Both pools have LED lighting, as well as an energy-efficient mechanical system that keeps the air as clean as possible and minimizes chlorine smell.
The building’s exterior has a clean and contemporary look that fits the context of surrounding buildings. It has cost-effective precast concrete wall panels with a large expanse of glass on the entry side. The eight-foot-high clerestories (windows) that wrap the top bring more natural light into the facility.
Another Milestone for Illinois’ Healthiest County
According to data analysis firm Niche, DuPage ranks as Illinois’ healthiest county. Beth Marchetti, Executive Director of the DuPage Convention & Visitors Bureau, said that the new natatorium will “add to the rich legacy of sport in DuPage County, from the Medinah Country Club to [football player] Red Grange, ‘The Galloping Ghost’ from Wheaton.”
“This facility is not only going to benefit Westmont,” added Westmont Mayor Ron Gunter, “but it’s also going to benefit the county and the state.”
Several speakers at the groundbreaking mentioned the many rewards of swimming: adults can heal, relax, and socialize, while children learn time management and teamwork. All swimmers, however, profit from the physical fitness benefits that the sport offers.
“I heard many times,” said Sims at the groundbreaking, “that building a facility like this is impossible, that it would never happen in Illinois and it would never happen in Chicago. Well, here we are.”
FMC Natatorium at Ty Warner Park is the realization of a long-time dream of coaches and swimmers in a community with a strong swim legacy.
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