Hulbert Aquatic Center opens with a splash
WEST FARGO - Minnesota State Moorhead women's swimming and diving coach Todd Peters had a smile on his face Friday afternoon as he stood near the pool at the Hulbert Aquatic Center.
The $20.2 million facility, added on to L.E. Berger Elementary in West Fargo, had come to fruition after years in the making.
"The pool itself is even better than I expected," said Peters, also a UP Aquatics board member, a local group of swim supporters that helped contribute to the project in cooperation with West Fargo Schools. "To be in the space, versus looking at two-dimensional drawings, it's just phenomenal."
The Dragon-Cobber Invite, which started Friday and concludes Saturday, is the first swim meet being held in the new facility. MSUM, Concordia, the University of Mary, Augustana and Minnesota-Morris all competed in the inaugural event.
"It's really surreal because we've been dreaming about this forever, and to finally be here and to have it all come together ... everything about this facility is so amazing," said Peters, in his 21st season as Dragons head coach.
The Hulbert Aquatic Center houses the pool that was used for the 2016 Olympic trials that UP Aquatics purchased for nearly $1 million, moving it to West Fargo from Omaha, Neb. The 54-meter pool is 25 yards wide and holds nearly 1 million gallons of water.
"It's a beautiful facility," said Concordia head coach Gary Fisher, who has been a swimming coach in the Fargo-Moorhead area since the 1980s.
The Dragons are scheduled to host another meet at the facility in January, featuring six teams, in preparation for hosting the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference championships in February. MSUM is also hosting the conference meet.
"It is a very nice facility," said Dragons senior Erin Sullivan, from Coon Rapids, Minn. "It's really cool to be able to have it so close to us and be able to practice. It's a very fast pool."
The Hulbert Aquatic Center is also scheduled to host the Eastern Dakota Conference high school boys meet as well as the North Dakota boys state meet later this school year. The facility is also scheduled to host the 2019 USA Swimming Central Zone championships.
"We would like to keep this pool as full as possible with big meets, but we also want to make sure our community has a chance to use the pool," said Chad Day, who is the aquatics director for Hulbert Aquatic Center.
The Dragons are hoping the new facility can help them land the NCAA Division II championships in the future.
"It's a fantastic facility," said MSUM athletic director Doug Peters. "It's awesome to be able to host events here. This is our chance to demonstrate that we can do that and do it at a high level. That is your vision is to get an NCAA Division II championship here."
The aquatic center is the home facility for the West Fargo High School and West Fargo Sheyenne High School swimming programs. The Dragons plan to practice a the facility at least once a week, Todd Peters said.
The center also features elevated seating for 1,100 with chair backs. There is seating on both sides of the pool and also an 11-by-20-foot video board on one end of the pool.
"The seating is really unique," Todd Peters said. "You don't really see chair-back seats in a pool."
Sullivan said being able to practice and compete in the new facility has provided an added lift for the Dragons.
"Even being able to practice here, it's just a little more energy around the team," Sullivan said. "It feels a little more positive."