ARLINGTON, Va., Feb. 13, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- This Valentine's Day weekend, many of the fastest swimmers in the world will dive into the chlorinated waters of the YMCA Aquatic Center in Orlando, Florida for Arena's Grand Prix swimming competition. The 3-day competition will feature some of the biggest names in swimming including Ryan Lochte, Dana Vollmer, and Missy Franklin.
Of the entire competition, USA Swimming's Mike Gustafson has identified 5 races deserving special attention: (1) Missy Franklin vs. Olivia Smoliga in the 100 backstroke; (2) 15-year-old Becca Mann seeded top 7 in six events; (3) Josh Schneider vs. Anthony Ervin in the 50 freestyle; (4) Floridians Ryan Lochte and Conor Dwyer racing in front of local fans; and (5) the return of world record holder Dana Vollmer to major competition.
The YMCA Aquatic Center on International Drive consists of a 50 meter by 25 yard natatorium, a separate 25 meter by 25 yard diving well, and a 25 yard teaching pool. The competition pool is an old pool but it's also considered a fast pool. USA Swimming has held both Junior and Senior Nationals in the YMCA Aquatic Center. And many world records have been set there.
While many swimmers from Florida and throughout the country know about the pool's speed, few know about the pool's troubled history. Built in 1985 as a covered alternative to nearby pools, such as the International Swimming Hall of Fame, the facility was originally named the Justus Aquatic Center.Developers hoped the facility would stand out in Florida because it featured the first of its kind hydraulically retractable roof, providing an outdoor swimming experience while allowing protection from unpredictable Florida weather. It was conceived as a joint venture with the attached hotel - to be the first aquatic-hotel complex. The project almost immediately faced financial and operational issues. During its first seven years, the pool was shuttered several times and almost demolished to expand the adjacent hotel's parking lot. Then, in 1992, the pool was separated from the hotel and donated to the YMCA.