Concrete Community. That is the perfect way to describe the West Side Swim Club, host of this year’s All-City Swim Meet.
Founded in 1962, the All-City Swim Meet is one of the largest outdoor amateur swim competitions in the nation and will welcome more than 2,000 male and female swimmers from ages 4 to 18 among 13 teams.
The competition is scheduled for Friday through Sunday at the West Side Swim Club.
West Side Swim Club, formerly known as West Side Businessmen’s Club, was the first pool in the All-City League and one of five founding members to start the All-City Swim Meet.
Playing host for the first time since 2008, West Side Swim Club is located in the heart of commercial real estate off Whitney Way and Odana Road.
“Our challenge is that we are landlocked, we don’t have green space,” said Mimi Levinson, one of two co-chairs of the All-City swim meet. “Every All-City is different. Other All-City’s have lots of space, but that comes at a trade-off of being more spread out and you don’t get the community feeling.”
West Side Swim Club is completely surrounded by buildings: the West YMCA, Montessori Children’s House, Supreme Health & Fitness and a strip mall containing even more businesses.
But that’s also what makes it such a tight-knit community.
The biggest challenge coordinating an event of this magnitude, which will feature not only the swimmers but more than 1,100 seats for spectators and 1,000 volunteers, is space.
Anna Andrzejewski, a member of West Side since 2009 and current coordinator who has been working with neighborhood relations and parking for the past two years, knows her club isn’t a typical neighborhood pool nestled in a residential area.
“It’s been great to work with all of our neighbors on Medical Circle. If they can’t donate parking, they’ve helped us out in other ways,” said Andrzejewski, “So many of these businesses have a connection to this pool, and it’s one of the many things that makes West Side so special.”
West Side Swim Club partnered with the West YMCA and Copps for preferred prepaid parking. The Golf Green Neighborhood, located on the other side of Whitney Way, offers plenty of free parking only five minutes away.
Supreme Health and Fitness also donated their parking lot to be transformed into “Tent-City,” a block party-type atmosphere filled with vendors, food carts, guest services and 13 tents, comprising all of the participants.
The area serves as a location to decompress, enjoy lawn games, eat, hydrate and mingle with athletes from other teams.
“Again, I have to mention we are incredibly fortunate with our neighbors, in particular, Supreme Health & Fitness,” Levinson said. “It’s a lot of space. We could not have this without Supreme.”
The format for this year’s meet changed from its usual Thursday to Saturday schedule to a Friday to Sunday setup for the first time in the event’s 58-year history, largely due to traffic concerns off Whitney Way.
After going to the All-City Swim League Board, West Side got permission to change the format and worked with city traffic engineers and the Madison Police Department to ensure the change was needed again.
The Second Harvest Food Drive is the major charitable partner for the meet.
Said Levinson: “It’s a friendly competition among all the different pools for numbers of meals raised per swimmer. It’s super important this time of the year because people don’t have access to school lunches.”
A big change from when West Side last hosted is the addition of live streaming of the competition.
“If Grandma and Grandpa are in a different city, they can live stream,” Levinson said. “That technology wasn’t really available with any degree of sophistication in 2008.”
And this year, the meet opener is Carly (Piper) Ryan, one of the most decorated swimmers to graduate from the University of Wisconsin and gold-medal holder at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece, in the 4x200 freestyle relay that broke a 17-year-old world record at the time.
She co-owns the Madison Aquatic Club with her husband, Shane, and also has been a member at West Side for the past couple years.
“All-City is like nothing I’ve ever experienced,” Ryan said. “I remember going to my first All-City a few years back and just staring in awe. It’s a big deal.”
The culmination of Levinson’s, Andrzejewski’s and the other thousands of volunteers’ two- to three-year efforts will come to fruition this week.
“We’re excited to show off our pool,” Levinson said. “We are super-proud of our community. We’re a smaller pool, but we’ve had tons of people step up and help out. Again, this couldn’t happen without our pool community.”