Great Wolf Swim Team director and coach Dave Bentz has seen participation in competitive swimming nearly double in the past decade.
But as the number of youth swimmers has risen, the number of Olympic-sized competition pools available for training and competition in the north and west metro areas has declined.
So Bentz is trying to turn that around. He has raised $1.2 million for a new Minnesota Aquatic Center in Coon Rapids that could host swim meets and serve as a training facility.
Bentz needs to raise another $500,000, along with $200,000 in cash to get the loan for the project. The entire project, which he wants to install at Hwy. 10 and Hanson Boulevard, would cost $10 million.
He chose the site in part because 77,000 cars pass by daily, making access convenient. "Any team is going to be able to come and host meets there," he said.
Bentz runs the Great Wolf Swim Team, an age-group team that trains at pools across the metro, from his Brooklyn Center home.
Olympians swim in 50-meter pools, and youth amateur swimmers usually train and compete in those pools during summer. But communities are replacing 50-meter pools with more lucrative outdoor water parks.
Bentz wants to reconstruct one of two identical 50-meter pools built for the June 2016 Olympic trials in Omaha in the Twin Cities. After the trials, they will be taken apart and sold secondhand at a discount to two qualified communities.
The pools, built by the Italian company Myrtha, will be high-end and state-of-the-art but easy to move to a new home, Bentz said. "Think of a set of hockey boards, that's really all a pool is. Set it on an arena floor and put in a liner," he said. "The whole thing can go through a standard door."
Operated around the clock as a training facility, Bentz expects the project to be in the black after three years; after that, he believes it will make a profit for owner-investors.
In his pitch to potential investors, Bentz shows renderings of a complex with comfortable stadium-style seats for 900 spectators.
Other communities are expressing interest in the Olympic pools, but Bentz said he's built a strong relationship with Myrtha through his effort and expects to keep working with them until he lands one for the Twin Cities.
"I think I've got a good shot," he said.