Wednesday, April 14, 2021
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Group Looks to Bring New Aquatic Center to Centre County

As a dad of young swimmers, Tim Wenrich knows how much the sport is growing in the area. He knows that, especially during the colder months when outdoor pools are closed and high school swim seasons are in full swing, the area’s indoor pools can get a little crowded. He is a proponent of the sport for all ages, so he and a group of other swim parents are working to bring a new aquatic center to the area.

“The swim team has gotten a lot larger the last few years … there is definitely a need here. We have a lot of swimmers, hundreds of swimmers in the State College, Bellefonte and Penns Valley area that would greatly benefit from a facility like this,” said Wenrich.

For two years, the group has been working on plans for Happy Valley Aquatic Centre, which would include a 50-meter pool that could be configured in different ways to provide a space for long-course and short-course training and competitions, diving, scuba diving and other aquatic sports. Wenrich said they are also hoping to include a therapy/swim lesson pool, “where young kids can come in for lessons.”

“They seem to do better in warm water,” he said.

The group is currently in the design phase and is doing research studies to determine how the facility could best suit the community. They are looking at two potential locations: one near the University Park Airport and one in the Benner Commerce Park. But Wenrich said they are a long way from any construction. They are currently looking for community support for the project and funding sources.

“We are not anywhere near digging and putting anything in the ground yet. We are having discussions with a lot of people and trying to get this thing built, because it is definably something that needs to be in this area,” said Wenrich.

In planning the facility, the group is focusing on teaching, competing and living well, he said. Swim lessons, lifeguard classes and introductions to other aquatic sports would just be a part of the educational offering at the center, he said. The group would like to work with local schools to give students the opportunity to take swim lessons.

The competitive swim teams in the area would benefit greatly with another place to practice and host meets year-round, he said. The facility could also provide an opportunity for older swimmers to compete in a masters’ division program for people aged 25 and older — something the Centre Region does not currently offer.

Wenrich said he would like to include a therapeutic aspect in the facility with aqua therapy, a sauna and hot tubs.

“We are looking at trying to have someone come in and operate the therapeutic side of it and be a kind of all-inclusive type of facility,” said Wenrich.

With seating for 2,000 people, he said a goal would be to have one big swim meet at the facility every month, which could bring in swimmers from all over the region.

Wenrich has served as meet director for the YMCA state championship meet in the past and he said it is something that could potentially be held at the new facility in the future.

“You have 1,500 swimmers over the course of a three-day weekend. Close to 5,000 spectators, 300 coaches and officials and volunteers, so there was a lot of people coming into town, looking for hotels, restaurants, looking to patronize local business, and if we are able to pull that off, it will give a nice boost to the local economy and tourism,” he said

Fritz Smith, president and CEO of The Happy Valley Adventure Bureau, said the facility could help fill a community need and help bring people to the region.

“An aquatics center would certainly fill a need in the county and the region,” said Smith.

“It would be another nice offering to add to our inventory of top-notch athletic facilities, giving us a chance to compete for events that would provide a boost to the local economy.”

The group would like to hold community meetings about the facility sometime later this year, Wenrich said.

Those interested in providing feedback or getting involved with the program can do so by clicking here.

Vincent Corso is the senior staff writer for The Centre County Gazette