Mylan Park Aquatic Center Seeks to Make a splash in competitive watersports | VM News
MORGANTOWN, Va. (WV News) – Mylan Park Aquatic Center delves into the world of competitive water sports. The facility, open since 2020, has hosted Big 12 Conference events and intends to continue to grow.
The Aquatic Center is home to the swimming and diving teams of West Virginia University. The center also has a track complex, which houses the WVU track team.
Secondary schools in the area also use it for both practice and competitions.
Jennifer Lainhart, director of the 90,000 square foot aquatic center, draws inspiration for her growth from a classic movie.
âThey say, ‘If you build it, they will come,’ and I find that to be true,â Lainhart said.
The center has an Olympic swimming pool and a competition diving board. There is also an Olympic-sized track.
The center is just one of many attractions at Mylan Park, which was founded in 1999 with the vision of several community leaders who wanted to create something to fill the need for recreation.
âThe overall theme is that this is about the quality of life for residents and visitors,â said Terri Howes, General Manager of Mylan Park.
The park began with four baseball and softball fields.
âIt has now grown to 14 indoor and outdoor facilities – we have almost 400 acres of land,â Howes said. âWe have over 60 acres of land space. This indoor building is a 48,000 square foot facility, which is doubled with the addition that we plan to complete in April 2022. â
Officials predict that Mylan Park will see more than a million visitors this year – and they expect that to increase over the years.
âIt’s a huge community building where you can go out and do a lot of different things,â McIntyre said. âWe have pickleball fields that have been set up, football fields, batting cages. As you drive around the park we have plenty of training grounds for not only youth teams but also recreational leagues and adult teams – baseball, lacrosse, softball and soccer. Any type of outdoor sport, we can host it here.
Howes said Mylan Park hosts everything from full-scale country music performances to Girl Scout cookie sales.
âWe are here for the service of the community,â Howes said. âIt can range from things that are very visible to things that you don’t see every day. “
Mylan Park has what Howes calls âreal partnerships,â ranging from WVU to Monongalia County, the Board of Education, Stepping Stones, PACE Enterprises, WVU Health and more.
âWe continue to review our programs, facilities and services,â Howes said. âWe try to be both entrepreneurial and sustainable. We try to maintain an inclusive environment that brings programming to the whole community.
COVID-19 has affected many aspects of life, including exercise and recreation. At no point during the pandemic did the park close, and staying open helped other sectors of the community as the pandemic began.
Churches have used the open spaces of Mylan Park to organize their services. Farmers’ markets used the area. COVID-19 test sites have been set up in Mylan.
âWe were able to open up to indoor sports – we had groups that came and did what they could in a socially distanced way,â Howes said.
While it was possible for many people to exercise at home, most households do not have Olympic-size swimming pools.
âThe health and fitness industry has been hit pretty hard,â Lainhart said, referring to the pandemic restrictions. “But you can’t really swim at home very easily, so that still creates a bit of a pull for our facility.”
WVU’s competitive swimming, diving and track teams use all of the Aquatic Center’s facilities as part of their Big 12 Conference competition.
The University of Texas is the only other Big 12 school with a comparable pool. As a result, WVU and Texas have held the conference swimming championship alternately since 2019. The aquatic center will host in 2022.
âThere are new teams now, so it will be exciting, and there will be even bigger meetings here, potentially to come,â said Lainhart.
The club’s swimming teams also use the pool, which is the first step towards qualifying for the Olympics. There has been talk of organizing synchronized swimming events at the center, which would also be a first step towards the Olympics, but nothing is official yet.
Lainhart noted that nationally, areas like Northern Virginia, Texas and California are considered major âswimming centersâ for those who want to seriously train for a major competition.
âOur hope is that they choose to come here and fall in love with the area as well,â Lainhart said. âIt’s an untapped area right now. You can build a swimming pool in Northern Virginia and you are sure that you are going to get people to come on day one. But in West Virginia, of course, there’s a certain excitement, but you know you want to keep building this community, and you’re building it from a young age.
Contact Chris Slater at [email protected], 304-887-6681, or follow @chris_slater on Twitter.