Springfield nonprofit seeks to bring premium swimming facility to Queen City

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Laura Gott, president of the nonprofit Well Aquatic Center and USA Swimming official, saw firsthand the need for a bigger swimming facility in the Queen City while her daughter was competing in swim meets.

Now her nonprofit has proposed a 70,000-square-foot swimming facility to accommodate competitive swim meets, special needs individuals, Medicaid patients and more.

The closest Olympic-sized swimming pools can be found in Columbia, Missouri and Fayetteville, Arkansas, which are at least three hours away if not more, Gott tells The Heartlander, noting demand for enhanced water-therapy programs in the area.

“Water therapy is a huge need, and we only have one facility in town that has a warm water pool that can be used for water therapy,” Gott said. “I’ve talked to several doctors who would like to see more water therapy being available.” 

The planned facility, costing $35 million, would have a 50-meter pool with a diving well, a four-lane learn-to-swim pool and two water therapy pools.

Currently local high school swim teams must share the John H. Foster Natatorium, which only consists of a six-lane, 25-yard pool. Efficient practice times are unavailable for teams using the natatorium. The teams could be better accommodated by The Well Aquatic Center.

The Well Aquatic Center would accommodate 1,500 spectators for competitions, with a yearly maintenance budget of $500,000.

“That’s normal. Some people just don’t know that. That’s why you do all the programming. In Greensboro, North Carolina, they program their pool where the pool makes a profit. If we can do it like that, that’d be great. We could also provide learn-to-swim programs for people on a low-income budget.”

The aquatic center also would have an impressive springboard diving platform, Gott says.

“The chances of being able to host an NCAA meet would be greater with having the platforms available. Then our high schools can start working with kids on doing that so they can get college scholarships in diving. That’s a huge need in the college world; they need more divers.”

Gott sees a lot of potential for various other programs, and the opportunity for local universities to occasionally rent the facility. The Well Aquatic Center has been in talks with local leaders from the Chamber of Commerce and Springfield Public Schools about potential program partnerships. The group intends to hold discussions with state officials, and will request financial support from the state.

Medicaid patients also may be able to use the facility through their state benefits.

“We’re looking at that, and are in communication with the director of Medicaid for the state. We are still negotiating. There is a need for Medicaid patients to have pool access. Medicaid sometimes does contracts to get pool time for their patients.” 

Gott argues swimming is unique because it’s a sport for both genders, yet she has observed it significantly boosts self-confidence in female athletes.

“It’s not about how skinny they are, it’s not what their hair looks like or having their makeup on. Their confidence carries over when they are away from the pool. That is what I love about the sport. The boys learn to respect the girls for everything they bring to the sport. It has nothing to do with hair, makeup and how you are built. It’s about being strong.”

To donate to The Well Aquatic Center, visit the website. For more information, call Laura Gott at 417-827-8981.

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