Northwest ISD opened its first aquatic center on Jan. 6 after decades of renting space in other facilities.

The 80,000-square-foot facility was built at the district’s central campus on Texan Drive. To accommodate a growing school district, the design allows space for five high school teams to practice. Features include a 50-meter competition pool, a 25-yard practice pool and areas for athletic training on dry land. The district will have the opportunity to rent the practice pool space to outside organizations, which will offset operational costs, according to NISD Executive Director of Communications Lesley Weaver said.

The project was approved as part of the district’s 2017 bond program and was initially allotted $27.5 million. In 2019, the district allocated an additional $5.62 million in undesignated savings from other bonds to the project, and Texas Health Resources contributed $3.43 million as part of a partnership to provide sports medicine rehabilitation services through the facility, according to previous Community Impact Newspaper reporting. The estimated cost for the center was $36.55 million, and the district said in a Jan. 7 statement that it was completed under budget.

Other major projects from the 2017 bond, including new elementary schools completed in 2019 and 2020, were prioritized ahead of the Aquatic Center to address district growth.

“I think some people think, 'Oh, why did it take three years?'” Weaver said. “Well, it didn't take three years. We always had the plan to open our elementary schools first.”

The first swim and dive event at the center, which was an intradistrict competition between Byron Nelson High School, Northwest High School and V.R. Eaton High School, took place immediately after the grand opening ceremony Jan. 6.

“After 26 years of renting at other sites we now have our own facility,” said Steve Melbourn, the director of the aquatic center, said in a statement. “We are extremely fortunate and grateful for those relationships, but it was great to look at our students’ faces and see the excitement in their eyes about their new home.”