Photo courtesy Marshalltown Iowa Community Y

The atmosphere at a high school state swim meet is intense. In Iowa, spectators brave the February cold and line up hours before the doors open to ensure they will have the best possible vantage point for the meet.

At the Marshalltown, Iowa, Community Y, we’re using the latest in technology to take that excitement level up a notch — and make every seat in the house the equivalent of a poolside view.

A new video projection system incorporating a 22-foot screen was installed in the 1,700-seat natatorium in February. The multimedia system allows for live video, recorded video and computer-generated graphics to be displayed on the large screen during the meet. This means the Community Y can tailor a multimedia presentation to specific events hosted in the natatorium.

The Y staff and volunteers were able to draw on the expertise of Fake Space, a company with a wealth of experience in consultation, design, installation and servicing of hundreds of large-scale visualization solutions for clients such as Ford Motor Co., NASA, Boeing, Conoco Phillips, John Deere, and the U.S. Army and Navy.

Fake Space provided components for the project at cost and helped the volunteers with installation. The project price was less than $23,000 and was paid for by donations from local companies and the community, along with fund-raising from the Y’s Swim Team Parents group.

By incorporating commonly used business computer platforms, training time is kept to a minimum. The system provides messaging, promotions and display of live video, featuring the parade of athletes, the events of the meet itself, team scoring, Hall of Fame recognition and live views of spectators.

It was first used at the 2006 Iowa Boys High School State Swim Meet held Feb. 19, and two weeks later at the 2006 Boys and Girls YMCA State Swim Meet on March 4-5. Approximately 2,100 spectators and swimmers attended the high school meet and more than 3,500 attended the two-day Y event.

At one event alone, screen advertising raised $1,500. Next year, we hope to double that. But the system’s potential is still being developed. We are looking at ways it can be incorporated into training (including underwater recording) and how to expand that training statewide. The Y already has a synchronized swimming program that will use the system for training.

The Y will be using the projection system to promote other programs and events at the facility, including “dive-in” movies and its annual fund-raising campaign — the Partner With Youth program.

With additional, relatively minor enhancements, the system will be able to broadcast to the Y’s in-house television system and to Internet sites. This will give people from around the country the opportunity to share in the excitement of Marshalltown’s swimming competitions.

Jason Beeghly is the aquatics director at the Community Y of Marshalltown, Iowa. Beeghly manages all aspects of the aquatics facilities, which include the 1,700-seat, eight-lane swim natatorium. During the summer, he also oversees the operation of a city-owned outdoor aquatics center, which includes pools with play features, two slides and a lazy river. He serves as the aquatics chair of the Iowa YMCA Membership and Program Network, and is a member of the Iowa YMCA Competitive Rules committee.