By JACK WEATHERLY
The Greensboro (N.C.) Aquatic Center has had an economic impact of more than $130 million since it was opened in September 2011.
The facility also runs an annual operational deficit, according to Susan Braman, its director since its inception.
This year, the deficit will be about $350,000 on a $1.5 million budget, she said. That’s much better than many, which incur a $1 million to $1.5 million overrun, Braman said in an interview. Some close, she said.
The aquatic center is included in the budget for the Greensboro Coliseum, which is part of a complex that also includes a theater, amphitheater, arena, banquet hall, convention center, museum and an indoor pavilion.
“If anybody is thinking they’re building it so that there’s this big profit margin, there’s not,” she said.
The impact in terms of jobs creation and support, however, is big, she said.
The aquatic center cost $19 million to build, $12 million of which was a bond issue footed by North Carolina taxpayers and $7 million came from a hotel tax, Braman said.
It took three efforts to get the center approved, she added. Initially, it was called a “natatorium,” and “nobody knew what that meant,” and it was voted down by the state’s voters.
Now the center has been outgrown and it will be expanded.
Construction of a $5.5 million to $6.5 million annex will begin this year, she said.The money comes from taxes collected from aquatic center events, so there will be no special taxpayer request, she added.
USA Swimming, the national governing body, says there is a shortage of competitive facilities, especially along the East Coast and in the middle of the country, according to Braman.
Of the proposed new Mississippi facility, she said that “if they had the success we did, it’s like build and they come.”
Wallover International was the engineering firm on the Greensboro facility, said Braman, who managed the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
The facility has 11 full-time employees and about 100 part-timers, mainly from the four local colleges of – the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, North Carolina A&T, Guilford College and Greensboro College.
“Three dominant swim clubs host three to four meets each,” Susan Braman, director Greensboro (N.C.) Aquatic Center
Three dominant swim clubs host three to four meets each, she said.
Thus far, the only one of the three metro Jackson clubs to actively participate in the effort is the Sunkist Swim Team. At this time, neither Madison’s PEAQ Swim Team nor Flowood’s Mississippi Makos team has been approached for participation.
The Greensboro center has landed national competitions.
The goal was to host the NCAA National Championships in seven years, but Greensboro got it in four.
Another goal was to have the USA Swimming National Championships in five years, but it was done in three, she said.