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The Herald-Sun (Durham, N.C.)

 

After 11 years in operation, the Triangle Aquatic Center needs another pool, says executive director Michael Curran.

But first, it's getting a new fitness center, more seating for fans and additional office space. The additions, which will add about 22,000 square feet to the TAC, are the first major improvements since the $22.5 million facility opened in 2007.

The nonprofit TAC began planning for this $10 million expansion in 2016. The project will be paid for through a capital campaign, loans and a grant from the Wake County hotel and meals tax fund, Curran said.

The first phase is expected to begin early next year with construction of the fitness center and the improved spectator area, which will grow in capacity from about 1,200 to around 1,500. Construction of the new 50-meter outdoor pool will begin next fall with opening set for the summer of 2020.

Curran said the TAC has reached its full capacity to offer health, safety, recreation and competitive programs, requiring the expansion. The TAC, which has three pools, hosts about 70 events and is visited by about 450,000 people annually, according to its website. Its "Learn to Swim" program provided about 2,000 swimming lessons last year.

The TAC also has made a name for itself by hosting aquatic competitions like the Special Olympics, senior games, USA Swimming meets, and public and private high school swim meet competitions. These can attract up to 750 competitors per event, Curran said.

"When we bring in an event it disrupts our programming," Curran said. "There is nowhere for those programs to go, so that's why we're building the 50-meter outdoor pool. We need the extra water."

When it opens in about two years, the pool will be used only for training, Curran said. It will be heated for year-round use and won't be covered by a bubble during the winter months.

"We've spoken with several 50-meter pools north of us up in Virginia, and they run their programming 12 months a year with a heated pool," Curran said. "So we're going to be heating our pool and therefore be able to run it now hopefully 12 months a year. There may be a few days or a few weeks of bad weather when we can't use it, but for the most part we'll be able to use it year round."

Plans for the new pool are under review by the town's planning and zoning board. A public hearing on a required rezoning request was held last week where Curran gave an update to the Town Council.

Cary town staff said the growth of Triangle Aquatic Center will aid the redevelopment of the adjacent, underperforming Cary Towne Center property, bringing in customers while the athletes are training or competing.

Councilman Jack Smith said the TAC has been a real community asset.

"They've been a great community partner," Smith said. "They've done a lot of good for Cary."

There was a neighborhood meeting with TAC representatives in June. Some neighbors said they were concerned about having the outdoor pool next to the neighborhood, according to meeting minutes. TAC officials responded by saying the pool would be used only for training and not as a play pool for children and families. The pool will not have a diving board or a slide, they said.

The Triangle has embraced swimming as an activity since the idea for an aquatics center was first raised by Curran and a small group of supporters in 2002. USA Swimming, the national governing body, now recognizes the Triangle and TAC as the seventh-largest swimming community in the nation.

The TAC is one of three major aquatics centers in the state. It competes with the Greensboro Aquatic Center, which opened in 2011, and the Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center in Charlotte, which opened in 1991., to host large swim meets.

Joe Johnson: (919) 419-6678, @JEJ_HSNews

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