DES MOINES, Iowa -- It cost $12 million to build a state-of-the-art aquatic center at the Wellmark YMCA in Downtown Des Moines. Now a year after opening, the YMCA says that money is going right back into the community, as some of the best swimmers in the world compete this weekend.
"This is like the prettiest pool I've ever seen,” Ankeny resident Alex Caruthers said.
One-by-one fans from across the Midwest packed Des Moines' newest aquatic center, featuring a pristine Olympic-sized swimming pool, all to check out some of the world's best athletes compete in Des Moines' first pro swim meet.
"I'm a swammer,” Caruthers said. “I used to be a swimmer, and having Olympians come here to Des Moines is like the coolest thing ever for the swim world, so I had to be here."
A sold-out crowd watched some season record-breaking times at Saturday's TYR Pro Swim Series Finals. It is a big moment for the YMCA of Greater Des Moines and the community, after putting many years and a lot of money into this facility.
"I think now we're seeing the pay off of that,” Ruth Comer, YMCA of Greater Des Moines’ Vice President of Marketing and Communications said, “bringing excitement and fun to Des Moines both for residents and for people coming in to visit.”
This three-day event is expected to bring over $2.1 million straight back to the community, something both Des Moines and USA swimming likes to see.
"You bring an event like this to Des Moines and you give them the opportunity to dip back economically,” Chairman for USA Swimming Bob Vincent said. “So to have this kind of a crowd, we've had sellout crowds, and that really makes a difference. It's great for Des Moines, it's great for USA Swimming, to bring this kind of excitement to a city like Des Moines."
It is a partnership Des Moines hopes is the first of many.
"We wanted to host events like this that bring people to Des Moines, that create opportunities for people in Des Moines to see the highest levels of professional sports,” Comer said. “This is kind of the last piece of the puzzle I think for downtown, in terms of hosting major sporting events."
The next major sporting event in Des Moines is just two weeks away, when Wells Fargo Arena hosts the first and second rounds of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament.