The University of Tennessee’s swimming and diving teams will soon be jumping into a new home.
The Allan Jones Intercollegiate Aquatic Center, on the corner of Volunteer Boulevard West and Andy Holt Avenue, is set to open this December.
Currently, UT swimmers and divers are just one of several groups and organizations sharing the Student Aquatic Center and the nearby Ray Bussard Pool. Other users include UT students, high school and middle school swim teams, United States Swimming teams and local swim clubs. After years of having to work around others’ schedules, UT aquatic athletes are ready to have a place they can call their own.
Head swimming and diving coach John Trembley said the athletes are very excited about the opening of the new center.
“The athletes, as well as the swimming community worldwide, are anticipating great (swim) events coming to UT,” Trembley said.
The new facility will be for university use first but will still be shared with other swim clubs.
“We are anticipating that this facility will be multi-use for high school, master swimmers, USS, diving, varsity and competitions of every sort,” Trembley said.
Funding for the facility came from donations to the UT Athletics campaign, STEP-UP. The campaign challenges the university to raise $44.25 million for new, renovated and expanded athletic facilities. STEP-UP will benefit 17 of the 20 men’s and women’s intercollegiate teams. It is designed to assist UT in its bids for Southeastern Conference and National Collegiate Athletic Association championships in each respecting sport.
The major sponsor of the new aquatic center is Allan Jones, chairman and founder of Check Into Cash, Inc., of Cleveland. Announcing before thousands of people at Neyland Stadium on Nov. 9, 2002, Jones donated $4 million to the new center. Along with his donation, there have been more than 800 donors supporting STEP-UP and more than 50 former swimmers, divers and their families making a total of $450,000 in contributions.
The $24.3 million center will be 322 feet by 170 feet, about the size of a football field. The center will have one outdoor 50-meter pool, an indoor 50-meter pool, a new 50-meter competition pool and a separate competition diving well featuring five platforms and six springboards. It will allow for 1,800 permanent seats with extra space on the pool deck to accommodate up to an additional 1,000 people.
The new facility will also include a weight room, a training room, a team-meeting room, several locker rooms for Vols, Lady Vols and two visiting teams, seven offices for coaches, a multipurpose room, an elevated timing booth and an improved Swimming and Diving Hall of Fame.
Avid swimmer Amy Davidson, senior in English and creative writing, said she is excited about the new center.
“I am looking forward to watching the swim meets there and possibly having a dip myself. I know the swim teams are ready to leave the current Aquatic Center as it is in no way up to par with other colleges’ competition pool,” Davidson said.
While the new facility is expected to eliminate space problems and upgrade competition conditions, the old Aquatic Center and Ray Bussard Pool will not be forgotten.
“There are many great memories from the years in the old pool for many swimmers and divers. I certainly hope the university will upgrade the very outdated facility,” Trembley said.