Home of the Carolina swimming and diving programs, the Maurice J. Koury Natatorium opened in 1986 and has undergone a significant series of improvements over the past several years with the intent of keeping it one of the most modern aquatic facilities in the nation.
A gift from the Tom Kean family of new starting blocks for the 2012-13 season was the most recent improvement to the facility.
The previous year an entire redesign of the facility’s entryway directly across from the main entrance to the Dean E. Smith Center was completed. Addition of trophy cases and memorabilia displays honoring the new UNC Blue Dolphin Society provide a Hall of Honor effect that greatly enhances the natatorium’s main foyer. Dedication for the new area took place on November 5, 2011. The project was completely financed by fund-raising by UNC swimming alumni and boosters.
Other recent additions have included the dedication of the Frank R. Comfort record boards in September 2008. The record boards came about in the form of a gift from Tom and Janet Kean, long-time supporters of the program. The Mike Keel Memorial Banners were put in place in October 2009 in honor of the late Mike Keel, the father of Tar Heel senior swimmer Katie Keel, UNC Class of 2012. The banners were financed through fund-raising from alumni and a gift from the Keel family.
In addition, the locker rooms for the two teams have been redesigned. The coaches’ offices were entirely redecorated. The Carolina athletic department also purchased new starting blocks and invested in significant improvements to the timing system. Alumni-raised funds were also directed to improve the overall training facilities and equipment for the program’s student-athletes.
A state-of-the-art, top-notch scoreboard and message board system was installed in the fall of 2006. A redesign of the team meeting room was also completed recently. The pool was also taken down in the summer of 2008, resulting in a maintenance project that has restored the Natatorium’s original beauty.
It was after 48 seasons of intercollegiate swimming and diving competition in historic Bowman Gray Pool that the Tar Heel men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams moved into their new home in October 1986 with the opening of Koury Natatorium.
Now in its 27th season of use, Koury Natatorium has gained a reputation as one of the finest pools in the nation. Several top-flight competitions have been staged here, with one of the showcase events being U.S. Swimming’s Senior Short Course National Championships March 21-25, 1989. Koury Natatorium served as the host of the U.S. Master’s Swimming Short Course National Championships in May 1992.
Koury Natatorium has hosted multiple Atlantic Coast Conference Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships. Those meets were held in 1987, 1989, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2003, 2007 and 2010.
Other top meets held at Koury Natatorium have included the 1988 and 1991 NCAA Southeast Regional Diving Championships, North Carolina High School Athletic Association men’s and women’s championship meets and U.S. Swimming North Carolina-Virginia all-star meets. U.S. Swimming held its annual elite training camp at Koury Natatorium shortly after its opening in 1986.
Another highlight in Koury Natatorium’s history was the swimming and water polo competition at U.S. Olympic Festival 1987, an event staged in non-Olympic years by the U.S. Olympic Committee. Swimming competition played to overflow crowds all three nights and the water polo competition also set Festival attendance standards for that sport. The crowds for swimming were so large that temporary bleachers had to be set up on the pool deck to accommodate the crowd.
The natatorium was officially dedicated in ceremonies on October 2, 1987, an event which drew a capacity crowd of UNC athletic partisans, swimming enthusiasts and statewide dignitaries, including the Lieutenant Governor, Robert Jordan, who gave the official address dedicating the facility.
The first competition in the facility actually took place almost a year before the Dedication Day when on October 31, 1986, UNC hosted the Tar Heel Invitational. The first dual meet competition was on November 10, 1986 when UNC’s women defeated NC State 171-96.
The pool itself measures 50 meters in length by 25 yards in width. There are two moveable bulkheads. At its most shallow point, the pool measures seven feet in depth while the pool is 18 feet at its deepest point. The pool also features continuous flow gutters and has one of the most advanced lighting systems of any swimming facility in the country. The gallery area provides seating for approximately 2,000 fans.
The acoustical system at the natatorium is outstanding. Six speakers serve the gallery area and six more serve the pool deck, which underwent an elaborate tiling project immediately after the Olympic Festival in 1987. In excess of 2,300 individual acoustical tiles are installed in the ceiling.
Each Carolina team has a locker room that affords two lockers for each team member. A team meeting room adjoins the deck and is named for former UNC swimming coach Ralph Casey. There is also a separate locker room for the UNC coaches and locker room facilities for visiting teams, recreational swimming and officials.
The locker rooms and meeting room are located directly across the hallway from the athletic training room of the Smith Center, where both the UNC swimming and diving programs and the men’s basketball program receive excellent care.
The natatorium also contains outstanding facilities for diving with platform diving facilities at several levels having been added during the summer of 2001 to the already existing one-meter and three-meter springboards. The diving area also includes a separate scoreboard and message board.
There is a second scoreboard and message board on the swimming end of the facility. The original scoreboard system was named for the late Dick Jamerson, the founder of the UNC swimming program in 1938 and its first head coach. The original system was dedicated December 2, 1986 at a dual meet against Duke with Coach Jamerson’s widow, Anna Jamerson, in attendance for the ceremonies. A new scoreboard and timing system was installed in the fall of 2006 in time for the Tar Heels’ home opener against Georgia.
Also located on the deck level adjacent to the pool are the swimming coaches’ offices with a reception area and offices for the Tar Heel coaches. The offices of the North Carolina Aquatic Club are also located adjacent the Koury Natatorium pool deck.
FROM VIRGINIA AND POINTS NORTH Take I-85 South to Durham, NC. Exit left at US 15-501 in Durham and follow 15-501 approximately 9 miles to Chapel Hill. Once in Chapel Hill, maintain US 15-501 Bypass (Fordham Boulevard). At around the 7th stoplight, turn right onto Manning Drive. The Smith Center is one-half mile on the left on Skipper Bowles Drive.
FROM POINTS WEST Take I-85 North toward Durham. Exit just past Burlington onto NC 54 East (Exit #148, Chapel Hill Exit). Follow NC 54 for approximately 20 miles to Carrboro. Pass Carrboro Plaza on the right and stay on NC 54 for about 4 miles to the next stop-light, Manning Drive. Turn left on Manning Drive. The Smith Center is one-half mile on the left on Skipper Bowles Drive.
FROM POINTS EAST Take I-40 West toward Chapel Hill. Exit at NC 54 West (Exit #273 A) and follow for approximately 4 miles. Once in Chapel Hill, continue to follow signs for NC 54 West, which means you will have to exit right under first overpass. At the top of the exit turn right at light. Follow NC 54 West/15-501South until the 2nd stoplight. Turn right onto Manning Drive. The Smith Center is one-half mile on the left on Skipper Bowles Drive.
FROM POINTS SOUTH Take US 15-50 North toward Chapel Hill. Exit right onto US 15-501 Bypass in Chapel Hill. Turn left at first stoplight onto Manning Drive. The Smith Center is one-half mile on the left on Skipper Bowles Drive.