One of the pools used in last summer's U.S. Olympic Swim Trials is headed for a new, permanent home: northwest Omaha's Tranquility Park.
The 50-meter pool will be a key piece of a larger sports complex that will also include tennis courts, weight-training facilities and seating for thousands of spectators.
Organizers say the planned Omaha Multi-Sport Complex could one day house facilities for an even wider range of sports, including squash and lacrosse.
The park near 120th Street and West Maple Road was selected, in part, because it is already home to baseball and soccer fields, tennis courts and the Moylan Iceplex.
It was selected from a field of seven proposals for sites in Omaha, Gretna and Bellevue.
“That was the thing that really pushed it over for Tranquility, the space and the location to make it a world-class amateur sports hub,” said Mike Cassling, board chairman for the Omaha Multi-Sport Complex organization. “Which I think will be huge for Omaha and the whole region.”
The project is still in the early stages of development.
The group has raised about $1 million, just short of the $1.1 million it needs to buy and install the pool. In February, it put out a request for proposals from property owners with a site at least 10 acres in size. Sites mentioned as possibilities included property owned by the University of Nebraska at Omaha near 67th Street and West Center Road.
The proposals submitted were from public and private landowners, each with the landowner's own idea of how to accommodate a complex that could be used for regional and national sports competitions.
“A lot of people really got creative on looking at how they could make it work for their space and putting different amenities tied to it,” Cassling said, “so it was not an easy decision at all.”
Project architects are now sorting out exactly where the new complex would fit in the 340-acre Tranquility Park. Cassling said his group is focusing on an approximately 80-acre section on the southeast side of the park that is largely undeveloped.
The facility, he said, wouldn't replace existing parts of the park but could complement the tennis courts and soccer fields already in place. New synthetic-turf soccer fields that could also be used for lacrosse and field hockey could be part of the package.
Early plans for the complex call for a second, smaller warm-up pool, seating for 2,000 swimming spectators and 6,500 tennis spectators, along with pro shops and weight-training rooms.
Cassie Seagren, the mayor's deputy chief of staff for economic development, said the city has not yet sorted out what, if any, infrastructure improvements the project would require or what contributions the city would make.
There will likely be a need for intersections that allow for more cars and additional parking space, but infrastructure such as water and sewer lines are already in place.
“It's really a true shovel-ready site,” she said.
Seagren said the city began working on its proposal while former Mayor Jim Suttle was in office and continued after Mayor Jean Stothert began her term.
Officials see the site as a particularly good fit for the project because the land needs to be used for recreational purposes, Seagren said. And at the moment, the city doesn't have the money to build this big of a facility on its own.
“This definitely fits within the (park's) master plan,” she said.
The park would remain a city property, but the new facility would be operated by the nonprofit Omaha Multi-Sport Complex group.
Now, Cassling said, the focus will turn to mapping out the site and coming up with design plans. That process is expected to take between three and six months.
Construction could begin early next year. Organizers hope to have the facility open by the spring of 2015.
That timeline is dependent on the group's success in raising money for a project that still doesn't have an estimated price tag.
But Cassling said he's found that Omahans have “huge interest” in the idea.
“People see the advantage of creating a world-class complex for all the citizens of Omaha and actually the region,” he said. “Not only to build those future (Olympians) up, but for hosting regional and national events. “