Many universities have state-of-the-art facilities they take pride in, and Ball State has one that has been standing for over half a century.
The Lewellen Aquatic Center, opened in 1968, is named after John Lewellen, a devoted student-athlete in Ball State’s class of 1937. He returned to Ball State to coach many sports, including swimming for 24 years. In 1970, he was named director of aquatics. After his retirement, he kept ties with the university.
“Back when John was still alive, we had a number of chances to talk [about the facility],” Leland Yarger, coordinator of the aquatics program, said. “We’ve had a really long history in aquatics.”
According to Ball State’s website, the facility houses a 25-yard, six-lane pool with a diving well and one-meter board. Yarger said there is a second, smaller pool and flume on the deck, giving swimmers and aquatics students many assets to utilize. There are also tunnels under the pool, allowing swimmers to be seen through small windows while underwater.
Yarger said he was drawn to Ball State University since it began offering the first and most comprehensive bachelor’s degree in aquatics in 2002. Yarger has been operating and managing other aquatic facilities since 1990, but the Lewellen Aquatic Center stuck out to him.
“You find pools that are built today that are brand new, that do not have the capabilities [Lewellen] has,” he said.
Aside from the swimming pools, the center itself has concept designs that improve the spectator experience as well, Yarger added.
“The seating has a circular design that, as a spectator, you can sit anywhere and see the swimmers and divers,” he said. “A lot of facilities are built like a rectangle or square. As a spectator, you see one side or one end of the pool, and that’s it.”
The dome-like shape of the aquatic center is also supported by a wooden truss structure held by distinctive laminated wooden beams bolted together along the ceiling, he said. This plays a part into how the original complex has stood for so long.
Benjamin Peak, director of Recreation Services, said via email that the renovations made to the building in 1999 were minor, with almost no refurbishing of the natatorium itself.
“[There was] general refurbishing of locker rooms and installation of new lockers,” Peak said.
Other additions include new lights installed two years ago, the air handling unit installed about four years ago and a new scoreboard five years ago.
The list of things to maintain at Lewellen Aquatic Center is ample, with facility cleaning and disinfecting, daily and weekly preventative maintenance of mechanical components and regular inspections of the ceiling truss.
“The usage of the facility is approximately 14 hours per day with use from Athletics, Recreation, School of Kinesiology and sports clubs,” Peak said. “All structural, mechanical and custodial needs are able to be met.”
Yarger said the Lewellen Aquatic Center enhances Ball State University as a whole, offering students, athletes, spectators and visitors a facility to enjoy and a program to succeed in. He is proud to be a part of it.
“Anybody in the country knows that for aquatic education,” he said, “you go to Ball State.”