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Olympic Sized Project Making a Splash in DSM USA


February 12, 2018

The YMCA of Greater Des Moines is celebrating its 150th year by making a splash – literally – in Downtown Des Moines (DSM).

In early March, the new MidAmerican Energy Aquatic Center will open at the Wellmark YMCA Downtown. It’s a day we have been looking forward to for more than three years, made possible through the cooperation, generosity and tireless support of businesses, organizations, governments and individuals throughout our community. 

The Pool

The centerpiece of the MidAmerican Energy Aquatic Center is the 50-meter Prairie Meadows Pool, DSM’s only indoor Olympic-size swimming pool. It can be set up to accommodate eight long course (50-meter) lanes or 19 short course (25-yard) lanes, providing maximum flexibility for lap swimming, swim meets, water polo matches, synchronized swimming competitions and other aquatic sports. An adjacent 25-yard program pool will be used by the Y for swim instruction and water exercise classes and will serve as a warm-up pool during big events.


The new aquatic center at the Wellmark Y was conceived, designed and constructed to accomplish three objectives:

1.) Enhance swimming and aquatics programs for Y members and the community.

2.) Elevate competitive swimming in central Iowa to the next level.

3.) Position DSM to compete for the right to host major regional and national competitions and events, which bring thousands of visitors and millions of dollars in business to the metro area.

With the opening of the two new pools Downtown, the YMCA of Greater Des Moines will own and operate 13 bodies of water, more than any other organization in the metro area. Generations of Iowans have learned to swim at the Y (remember starting out as a Pike and working your way up to a Shark?).

Our water exercise classes are a hit with members of all ages. In partnership with the Des Moines Public Schools, we offer a program called Safety Around Water that teaches basic water safety and survival skills to students from schools in low-income areas, who are at greater risk of drowning due to lack of access to pools and swim instruction. As community leaders in swimming and aquatics, we embrace our responsibility to help people of every age and every walk of life enjoy the recreational and fitness benefits of feeling confident in the water.

Community Commitment

The Y is capitalizing on the opportunities presented by this new aquatic facility to make an unprecedented commitment to the future of competitive swimming in Iowa. Dowling coach and All-American swimmer, Frankie Hanson, joined the Y staff in October as Director of Aquatic Operations; she was instrumental in recruiting Bill Wadley, former Big 10 Conference Coach of the Year at Ohio State, to serve as Director of Youth Competitive Swimming.

Wadley will supervise swim team programs at six YMCA branches and serve as head coach of a unified Y team composed of the area’s top competitive swimmers. Our goal is to develop a comprehensive program that provides athletes at all levels – from the youngest beginner to the oldest Masters swimmer – with the training and coaching they need to reach their goals. Who knows? The next Katie Ledecky or Michael Phelps may get their start right here in one of our Y pools.

Opportunities for Downtown DSM

The Prairie Meadows Pool at the MidAmerican Energy Aquatic Center opens up a wealth of possibilities for the community. With spectator seating for 1,200, and situated only steps away from hotels, restaurants and other sports venues, the facility positions DSM to host major regional and national athletic competitions of all kinds. We have put the swim world on notice that Iowa’s capital city welcomes their business, and already we’re seeing it pay off in terms of inquiries and event bookings. No project of this magnitude happens without the dedication and support of many individuals and organizations. Special kudos must go to our capital campaign co-chairs, Jim Cownie and Bill Knapp, and to YMCA board members past and present, whose vision for a world-class facility in Downtown DSM has become a reality. We also want to thank our naming donors – Wellmark, MidAmerican Energy Company and Prairie Meadows – and the hundreds of other companies and organizations that have contributed financially to bring this project to fruition.

The opening of the MidAmerican Energy Aquatic Center and Prairie Meadows Pool is the latest milestone in a 150-year record of service to the community we’re proud to call home.

Downtown Des Moines (DSM) is a growing, vibrant community that offers the energy, sophistication, housing and attractions of a big city. It’s also easy to visit with plentiful and affordable street and ramp parking options.