Development could move WIAA, UW swim meets off campus - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Development could move WIAA, UW swim meets off campus

SERF plan proposal SERF plan proposal
Natatorium plan proposal Natatorium plan proposal

MADISON (WKOW) -- The future of competitive swimming on the UW-Madison campus is unknown, as students prepare to vote on a referendum project that threatens the WIAA state meet and UW events.

UW's Division of Recreational Sports has put together a master plan to improve the two main rec facilities on campus: the Southeast Recreation Facility (SERF) and the Natatorium. 
Director John Horn tells 27 News both facilities are aging and it would be more cost effective to spend the money remodeling rather than repairing problems. The Nat was built in 1964 and hasn't been upgraded since. The SERF was built in 1983, but Horn says it can use a lot of work.
"We do not meet the space demand for students on campus currently at this time, we haven't for a long time," Horn says. "[The plan includes] major expansions to fitness spaces. We're currently about 85,000 square feet under the national standard for a campus our size."
The proposed $220 million project would add court spaces, an indoor turf field and track, expansion of a multipurpose room, along with added fitness space and a pool at each facility. What it wouldn't include: a competition pool and a platform diving well.
The Natatorium is currently where the UW's men's and women's swim teams hold home meets, but they practice at the SERF. Without the competition pool, the team couldn't ever host home meets. A previous plan would have included a competition pool to replace the aging one at the Nat, but Horn says the funding couldn't come together.
The swimming community has expressed concern over this potential loss of a facility. Laura teDuits has five children, four who swim competitively. One of her sons holds a national title and swims for UW-Madison. She says she's disappointed in the change of plans for the project, that had originally thrilled her kids who looked forward to a nice, new facility.
"We can't afford to lose another competition facility in this state, let alone this town." teDuits tells 27 News. "I think the university is missing a huge opportunity here to own a facility that interfaces with the public in a way that is part of their mission statement: using their resources to improve the public and give back to the public."
teDuits is concerned not only for the future of the UW swim and dive teams, but also younger athletes who use the Nat, like those competing in the WIAA state swim meet.
WIAA swimming and diving officials say it's not the first time they've faced a possible move out of Madison. The organization has a three-year agreement with UW right now and doesn't have a specific plan in mind if this project goes through.
"We love Madison, we want to be in Madison," says Tom Shafranski, with WIAA. "If there's anything we can do to preserve a tournament facility with the quality competitive pool and the opportunity to keep the environment that we created, that's what we're there to help do."
Shafranski tells 27 News it's too soon to start thinking about options, but there are no other facilities in Madison that can handle the 1,500-1,800 spectators expected at every state meet. WIAA would have to look to other cities for a new home for the competition.
UW's Associate Athletic Director Justin Doherty says the Athletic Department is not in the position right now to fund another project and doesn't believe losing the competition pool would hurt the UW swim teams. UW Athletics was asked to fund at least $13 million of the pool project.
Doherty says the two training pools that are part of the master plan would leave the teams with a good facility.
"The athletic department supports its swim teams just like it supports its other 21 sports. The department is not, however, prepared at this time to increase its indebtedness with the building of another facility," Doherty says in a statement to Rec Sports.
It's a discouraging decision for swim families like the teDuits. Laura says she wants to see the UW ask for help from donors before dismissing the project.
Rec Sports will move forward with the master plan. It's up for a vote among UW students in early March. They'll make the final decision, because they'll fund 50 to 60 percent of the project with segregated fees. Right now, seg fees cost each student $37 a semester. The development would boost that amount to $130-140 a semester.
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