Making a big splash for the economy — and for residents — at Huntsville Aquatics Center

single-meta-cal February 22, 2018

At the official grand opening of the Huntsville Aquatic Center last July, hundreds of swimmers jumped into the water simultaneously – a literal and figurative big splash.

It only seems like nobody’s been out of the water since then.

The Huntsville Aquatics Center, a $22-million project that has been praised as one of the finest in the nation, was named the “Facility of the Year” recently by the Alabama Recreation and Parks Association. Already it has well-served the dual purpose City officials envisioned:

  • First, to provide recreational, competitive and therapeutic access for local residents on a continual basis. People of all ages are swimming laps or doing water aerobics or simply exercising in the water.
  • Second, to serve as a competitive venue that would attract visitors to Huntsville and, in turn, boost the local economy.

With three major meets providing an economic impact of more than $3.5 million in eight months’ time, the latter task has clearly been served.

After the Southeasterns, the word got back to other swim teams. Then the phone calls started coming in.”

The third of those meets, the Southeastern Short Course Swimming Championships, begins Friday and will run through Sunday. Some 1,100 swimmers are expected, including a 90-strong delegation from Huntsville Swim Association.

The economic impact is expected to reach nearly $1.5 million in money spent by visitors on lodging, meals, shopping and other purchases, according to Ralph Stone, executive director of the Huntsville Sports Commission. Some 3,600 room nights will be spent at local hotels and motels.

The Southeastern Long Course meet, held last summer, also led to a $1.5 million economic impact, and the recent Jack Frost Invitational brought more than $550,000 into the economy.


The Southeastern meet was more than an economy driver. It was a showcase for the Huntsville Aquatics Center as an exceptional venue.

“After the Southeasterns, the word got back to other swim teams,” Stone said. “Then the phone calls started coming in.”

Rather than having Huntsville scrambling to find events to host, “We’re in the enviable position of being able to be selective in what meets we bring in,” Stone said.

The next extravaganza will be the USA Swimming Southern Zone Senior Championships on July 31-Aug 4. It will include elite competitors, from 15 years and older, from Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina as well as Alabama.

The Huntsville Aquatics Center includes three pools: The therapy pool, used for exercise, the Competition Pool and the Legacy Pool; the latter is the old natatorium pool onto which the others were connected, giving Huntsville the only venue in the Southeast with two indoor competition pools under one roof. The Huntsville City Council recently approved more renovation of that four-decade-old facility, much of which was previously budgeted in the initial construction.

Southeastern Short Course

The Southeastern Short Course meet is for boys and girls, age groups 10-and-under,  11-12, 13-14, and Senior. Age on the first day of the meet determines the age group for the entire meet. Southeastern Swimming, the local governing body underneath USA Swimming, represents about 7,900 swimmers from 79 clubs located in the States of Alabama, Florida, and Tennessee. “Short course” is defined as 25 meters; the Competition pool was designed to be 50 meters in length – a long course – and 25 meters wide to accommodate both levels.