The City of Omaha is exploring the possibility of buying a pool used in the U.S. Swim Trials.

The city has started preliminary discussions about partnering with other groups, such as the Elkhorn Public Schools, to bring another swimming option to fast-growing west Omaha.

Omaha Parks Director Brook Bench said talks about obtaining a 50-meter, Olympic-size pool are preliminary, and major details, such as what it would cost and whether it would be indoor or outdoor, haven’t been hammered out.

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However, he said, a potential location for the pool is the Common Ground Community Center, which is next to Elkhorn High School and now houses an indoor pool used by Elkhorn’s swim team.

“Someday, we are going to need to add something, and it probably would make sense to do something as a partnership so we could get a better bang for our buck,” Bench said.

Elkhorn Superintendent Bary Habrock said the joint Elkhorn High and Elkhorn South swimming and diving team enjoys Common Ground. But Elkhorn continues to expand, and is adding a third high school in 2020 to be called Elkhorn North.

“Three schools co-oping (at one pool) is not a long-term solution,” Habrock said. “We understand that we need more water to meet our programming needs.”

Pools came up earlier this month at the mayor’s town hall meeting in northwest Omaha. A resident said the city has too few pools, particularly in west Omaha.

Mayor Jean Stothert said the city has discussed buying either a warmup or competition pool used in the trials. She noted they can be configured in various ways.

“We’re evaluating it to see if that’s something we might do,” she said.

Omaha has hosted the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials three times and will again in 2020.

The Nebraska Multisport Complex planned for La Vista has one of the Olympic-size pools from the 2012 Swim Trials in storage and wants to use it in the project’s proposed natatorium. The pool, which is essentially a liner or a tub, costs about $1 million.

A community group in North Dakota bought one of the pools used in the 2016 Swim Trials. According to news reports from that state, the pool cost nearly $1 million.

Bench said the city would look to buy a pool used in the Swim Trials coming up in two years.

Kevin Andersen, one of Stothert’s deputy chiefs of staff on economic development issues, said any potential purchase of a pool would be separate from the annual $250,000 in general funds that the city gives to support the Swim Trials, and would have to be supported by bond dollars in the city’s capital improvement plan, partners or both.

The 2016 Swim Trials had an estimated economic impact of $74 million, he noted.

Bench said he’d like to see the pool used for recreational activities, meaning it would have play features, like at the Zorinsky Pool south of 156th Street and West Center Road. That’s opposed to using the pool exclusively to swim laps.

The city has 18 pools, most of them outdoor, and hasn’t built a new one in almost a decade. The one at Zorinsky is the newest. It opened in June 2010. The Elkhorn Pool, another west Omaha facility, is 40 years old, Bench said.

There are Olympic-size pools in Omaha right now. There’s one at Hitchcock Park near 42nd and Q Streets and one at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

In recent years, the city has built and opened more splash parks, which have less upkeep and are popular for younger kids. But Bench said city staff has talked internally for about five years about needing another pool in west Omaha, as the city continues to annex more area there.

Omaha City Councilman Brinker Harding, whose district includes west Omaha and the Elkhorn area, said it’s worth looking into the possibility of the city partnering with the schools or other groups.

Harding, who was a regular masters swimmer until a couple of years ago and now considers himself an “infrequent” masters swimmer, noted that the Furman Aquatic Center in Ames, Iowa, features a 50-meter pool with a slide and recreational area with zero entry and kid’s play features. “Maybe that’s something that the city could talk about as well,” he said.