State meet moves to new facility causing the end of beloved ETHS tradition

2022 marks the end of an era. Since 1958, ETHS and New Trier have alternated hosting the IHSA State Final Swim Meets. However, that tradition will no longer continue. After the construction of the FMC Natatorium, an indoor swimming complex in Westmont, Ill. that was opened in 2020, the highly competitive meet will no longer be held at the high schools. The switch to the new location is bittersweet for the ETHS community, who, for decades, had taken pride in hosting the event. 

Athletic Director Chris Livatino reflects on the importance of hosting the meet held at ETHS. 

43 or 44 State championships were hosted here since 1958. It’s a bittersweet parting of ways, because it was a lot of work. It was the biggest event that we hosted every year.” Livatino adds, “The best part was getting to get to connect with [the athletes] during that part of it when they were helping to make the meet run. So, I kind of feel like I’m losing a little bit of touch with our program and not having that, but then, [in addition, there’s also] just the honor of having the state’s best swimmers and coaches all collected together.”

Yet, Livatino acknowledges the benefit of the new facility. The FMC Natatorium is a 17,000 square foot facility, housing an Olympic-size pool and has a capacity of 1,200 spectators. 

“They wanted to provide parents and families a chance to watch their children. So we’re in the perfect spot for that. But this place has a 1,200 capacity. I think it wasn’t built just for the State meet, but it was built to address a larger need for swimming in general in Illinois.” 

The ETHS Burton Aquatic Center actually holds the same amount of people that the FMC Natatorium holds, but swim coach Kevin Auger recognizes that the FMC is a much better fit for large events such as the state meet.

“The FMC Natatorium will host the same number of spectators, but they’re spread out a little bit more because the pool itself is another three lanes. Compared to our pool, it’s one and a half times wide. And it’s more than twice as long, because it’s 50 meters. This (ETHS pool) is a 25 yard pool. You can picture the same amount of spectators but with much more room in between,” Auger says.

Additionally, the Hinsdale School District 68 will assume the role of meet host, something that Livatino says is a time-consuming, yet rewarding job. 

“There is an eight-page checklist, single-spaced—the whole deal. Bullet points, operations, safety, data, you name it, checklist of everything that has to get done. It becomes like a child to you.” 

Livatino expresses that the planning and execution of the State meet would take months of organization and prep, all leading to the competition day—which was always held on a Friday afternoon.  

“We have a lot of really great people that run all the facets of it. So it’s really just kind of learning and then just creating this checklist, year in year out, and adding to it, enhancing it, and just sort of [manage it] by this point. It’s kind of a well-oiled machine.”

The school took pride in housing the State swim meet. It drew a significant amount of attention to ETHS athletics—especially in 2008, when Sports Illustrated covered the State meet at ETHS.   

However, Auger sees value in not having the stress of hosting, so he can prioritize his duties as a coach. 

“Well, from my perspective, I won’t be busy running the meet, so I can be busy worrying about the swimmers. From a coaching perspective, it’s going to be much better because the facility is much nicer,” Auger expresses. 

Ultimately, the move to the new facility is an exciting opportunity for athletes, who might have never swum in an Olympic size pool, nevertheless, it is undeniable that ETHS athletics will miss hosting the event every year. 

“It’s a really bittersweet kind of thing,” Livatino says. “We take a lot of pride in hosting. It was many years and we made a lot of really big improvements between us and New Trier that made the experience better for the coaches, the kids, and the spectators. I’m really glad that I got a chance to go through that.”