When the new Boilermaker Aquatic Center opened in August 2001, it marked a milestone in the history of Purdue intercollegiate swimming and diving. Built entirely with private funds, the $17.1 million facility has elevated Purdue swimming and diving facilities to a level equal to the finest in the nation.
"Our generous friends and alumni helped build the Boilermaker Aquatic Center to propel our swimming and diving programs to be the best," said Morgan Burke, director of intercollegiate athletics and former captain of the swim team.
Now that the Boilermakers have spent three full years in their new facility, the expectations are even higher for results against opponents and for the facility itself. In its first two years, the Center hosted the 2002 NCAA Central Regional Diving Zones, a U.S.S. Swimming age group meet and the 2003 Women's Big Ten Swimming and Diving Championships. In its third year, the Boilermaker Aquatic Center welcomed the 2004 Men's Big Ten Swimming and Diving Championships and in 2005 will host its most prestigious event yet, the NCAA Women's Championships. The Central Regional Diving Zones also will come back to West Lafayette in 2005 the week prior to NCAA's.
The team members of the Old Gold and Black have also found that the long course meters capabilities have suited them well for training - both in season and over the summer long course meters season. The past three summers, several team members of both the men's and women's teams stayed on campus to train in long course and it paid off. The Tippecanoe White Sharks Club team finished 18th at the 2002 Indiana State meet at IUPUI and two of the women's members recorded their 2004 Olympics Trial meet cut times.
When Burke started work as athletics director in 1993, he immediately initiated an assessment of all Purdue athletics facilities. One part of that assessment confirmed what he had known 20 years earlier as a varsity swimmer: That the nearly 60-year-old Lambert Gymnasium pool had served the University well but that a new facility was needed in order to keep the Boilermakers competitive.
"Facilities are one of the main drawing cards for all of our programs, and we intend to take a comprehensive look at all of our venues to position ourselves to compete with the best," Burke said at the time.
Although great things had been accomplished in the Lambert pool since its completion in 1938, other Big Ten institutions had overtaken Purdue.
Enter Bob Holloway, a member of the Class of 1948. He called on Burke to talk about his vision of a new swimming and diving facility for the West Lafayette campus. Holloway and his wife, Doris, a member of the Class of 1947, have been and continue to be longtime supporters of Purdue athletics.
In 1997, a $15 million fund-raising campaign was launched, under the banner "Imagine." That figure later was revised upward when construction costs exceeded initial estimates. The Holloways, who already had made a leadership gift, added to their contribution and urged others to do the same.
Ground was broken in 1999, and on Oct. 26, 2001, the Boilermaker Aquatic Center and the Doris Z. Holloway Pool were dedicated in ceremonies attended by more than 1,000.
"The completion of the Boilermaker Aquatic Center puts in place the last piece of the puzzle to move swimming and diving into the upper echelon of the Big Ten and nation," Burke said.
Completion of the facility has raised expectations for the program and coaches Dan Ross for the men and Cathy Wright-Eger for the women look forward to the impact it will have on recruiting.
"Purdue traditionally attracts the best students in the state and nation," says Wright Eger, now in her 18th year coaching the women. "Now we finally have a facility that matches the quality of our academics and the institution.
"It is, at last, a total package for the best student-athletes."
Ross, in his 20th year coaching the men, already has seen renewed interest among potential Boilermakers.
"I am a coach, and good coaches want to compete," he says. "This facility will allow us to do just that. In fact, it already has and we're going to continue to build on that in our next year."
The facility landed one "blue-chipper," early in the process, although this recruit was not a student-athlete. He is diving coach Wenbo Chen, now in his third season.
In three seasons, Chen has done miraculous things with the Purdue diving program, but none bigger than coaching junior Carrie McCambridge to three Big Ten titles and an appearance at last year's NCAA Championships. McCambridge's sweep of the conference's diving titles were the first earned by a Boilermaker in the program's 29-year history.
Since Chen arrived in 2001, he has brought one male diver (J.R. Hillis) and three female divers (McCambridge, Amanda Miller and 2002 graduate Kara Hajek-Gustafson) to the national championships.
Chen, a former leading diver for the People's Republic of China and coach of the Chinese National Team, immigrated to the United States in 1992. He has collegiate coaching experience at Florida State and Illinois. He also coached U.S. national teams in the Junior World Championships and the Canadian Cup.
"Purdue has the facilities and the potential to build an outstanding diving program, and I hope to help make that happen," said Chen, who started work Oct. 25, 2001, one day before the dedication ceremonies.
The Boilermaker Aquatic Center, while being home to the men's and women's swimming and diving programs, provides a home for all recreational and educational swimming on campus, as well. When the facility was conceived, planners agreed that the new center should be built on a scale to serve all needs.
Besides the Lambert Gymnasium pool, the Boilermaker Aquatic Center also replaced indoor and outdoor pools at the Recreational Sports Center. Careful scheduling and use of moveable bulkheads allow multiple uses of the Holloway Pool and the diving well simultaneously.
The center is a cooperative effort involving Intercollegiate Athletics, the Division of Recreational Sports and the Department of Health, Kinesiology and Leisure Studies.
The center is the third home to intercollegiate swimming on the West Lafayette campus.
The first home of Purdue swimming traces its beginnings to another fund-raising campaign, one inspired by a train wreck in 1903 that claimed the lives of 16 Purdue football players and injured dozens of students, staff and fans. The tragedy involved the "Purdue Special" train making its way to Indianapolis for a game against Indiana on Oct. 31, 1903.
The Memorial Gym, now the Computer Science Building, was dedicated in 1909 to the memories of those killed in the train wreck of 1903. Inside the building was the first swimming pool on campus. It would be another 10 years before intercollegiate swimming and diving took hold at West Lafayette.
In the 1930s, planning started for a second home. Built as a Depression-era Public Works Administration project, the Gymnasium and Fieldhouse represented a giant leap forward for swimming and diving.
"The dream has become a reality," the 1938 Debris yearbook proclaimed of the new facility that included "an excellent swimming pool, as well as fieldhouse for basketball and indoor track."
Lambert continues as the home of indoor track on the West Lafayette campus, and the building is home to the Department of Health, Kinesiology and Leisure Studies.
Features and Highlights of the Facility
Eight-lane, 50-meter competition pool, with use of two moveable bulkheads, allows reconfiguration as a 20-lane 25-yard short course.
The Holloway Pool holds approximately 800,000 gallons of water, compared with 169,000 gallons in the Lambert pool.
Diving well holds 500,000 gallons of water and doubles as a six-lane, 25-yard short course.
Roll-out gutters drastically reduce the effect of waves in the pools.
A Daktronics scoreboard provides state-of-the-art scoring and allows live video coverage of events.
An exclusive weight room is provided for student-athletes on site.
Diving well boasts diving towers of 1, 3, 5, 7.5 and 10 meters, in addition to two 1-meter and two 3-meter diving boards.
A bubbling device at the bottom of the well softens the landings on divers in training.
Permanent seating for 700 spectators, expandable to 1,400 with use of temporary bleachers.
Coaches' conference room and meet management office flank the competition pool.