Venerable Natatorium hosts another championship

Published: .
Updated: .

The top swimmers in the country will be competing in Indianapolis starting today. At stake - a chance to represent the USA at the World Championships in Barcelona next month.

The Phillips 66 U.S. National Championships get underway at 9:00 a.m. at the IU Natatorium, a favorite venue of Olympic swimmers, but a pool that is also showing its age.

Built for National Sports Festival in 1982, The Nat is among Indianapolis' oldest sports facilities. It's also one of the biggest competition pools in the country, capable of seating about 4500 swim fans.  That's one of the main reasons the Natatorium is chosen time and again to host national swimming and diving competitions.

But the building is 30 years old, and needs an estimated $18-million in repairs, including a new roof. It's operating at a $1-million deficit, with a million dollar budget of regular maintenance and upkeep a year.

As for the repairs, big question who will pay the millions of dollars. Since this is considered a city asset, much more than a student pool. There is talk that the Capital Improvement Board, which funds Lucas Oil Stadium & Bankers Life Fieldhouse might step in the help here...

But for swimmers, it's about much more than a building.

Swimmers and coaches say the Natatorium is still a fast pool where numerous national and world records were set. The web site calls the IU Natatorium the top U.S. venue for a swim meet - a "must visit" site.

Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin practiced Monday afternoon at the pool where she broke her first national age group record. "When I found out that World Championship Trials was going to be here, I was so excited," she said. "I've been swimming at this pool for years and years and years, and it's one of my favorite pools. I absolutely love it." 

Since the pool is considered a city and national asset, much more than just an IUPUI student pool, stakeholders have discussed whether the Capital Improvement Board, which funds and operates Lucas Oil Stadium and Bankers Life Fieldhouse, might be able to step in to take over management of the facility from IUPUI.