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Olympic-caliber aquatic center planned on Lake Norman

Charlotte-based SwimMAC Carolina, which has produced some of the nation’s top competitive swimmers, is considering staging its main events in a proposed $10 million aquatic center at the Langtree at the Lake community on Lake Norman, the president of Langtree’s development company said Wednesday.

The 51,000-square-foot aquatic center will be part of an 8-acre complex that also will include a parking garage and a 12-story, 230-room Doubletree by Hilton Hotel & Conference Center, said Steve Welly, president of Langtree developer RL West. The hotel will have 40 condominiums on its upper floors. The conference center will have 20,000 square feet of meeting space, Welly said.

Buildings that will house luxury apartments at the nearly $1 billion Langtree are well under construction.

Langtree plans to start on the aquatic center, parking garage, hotel and conference center in early 2014 and complete them in two years, Welly said.

The aquatic center will be on 1 acre and include two 50-meter warm-up and Olympic-caliber competition pools, with seating for 2,200 to 2,600 spectators, Welly said. “They don’t have that kind of seating,” Welly said of Charlotte area pools used by SwimMAC.

The Mooresville Board of Commissioners approved $232,000 in tax incentives for the aquatic center late Monday, and the Iredell County Board of Commissioners approved $194,000 in incentives on Tuesday night.

Welly and SwimMAC officials cautioned that they haven’t signed any deal for SwimMAC to use the planned center, and SwimMAC has no plans to move from other Charlotte area facilities where it trains swimmers and holds meets, said David Marsh, SwimMAC’s chief executive officer and director of coaching. More swimming space is needed in the region to stave off competition from relatively new aquatic centers in Cary and Greensboro, which have taken some of SwimMAC’s events, Marsh said.

“There’s a huge need for more year-round accessible water,” Marsh said. “There’s a huge need right now.”

Brandon Drawz, SwimMAC executive director, said in a statement Wednesday that SwimMAC is in “preliminary discussions” with RL West about using its planned aquatic center “as an additional site for our organization. Nothing has been firmed up and no binding commitment has been made by SwimMAC. We look forward to continuing our dialogue about this potential opportunity with RL West.”

Marsh said it would be “way to speculative” to say SwimMAC will move its training of top-caliber Team Elite swimmers solely to the planned Langtree at the Lake center or move its annual Charlotte UltraSwim, which draws Olympic-caliber swimmers to the Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center in uptown Charlotte. Marsh said Team Elite swimmers use five area pools.

The Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center holds about 1,000 spectators, Marsh said. Mecklenburg County plans $8 million in improvements to the center, he said.

SwimMAC Carolina, now in its 36th year, is one of the nation’s most successful swim clubs. It has produced homegrown stars such as Ricky Berens, who won a gold medal in the 2008 Olympics, and more than 30 swimmers with Charlotte connections qualified for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials.

In 2007, SwimMAC hired Marsh, a former college coach at Auburn who won 12 national championships there, to be its head coach and direct a post-graduate program for college swimmers who wanted to pursue the Olympics.

Staff Writer Bill Kiser contributed.

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