Officials have broken ground on what is being called the largest aquatic center in the Lowcountry.

The center is under construction near Fort Dorchester High in North Charleston.

Dorchester District Two board members joined City of North Charleston council members Aug. 8 for the ceremonial groundbreaking for the project, which is a collaboration between the two entities.

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The 53,000-square-foot facility is expected to cost $22.5 million.

The district announced in March 2015 it would enter contract negotiations with the city and the two entities officially signed in May 2016. Officials are shooting for an August 2019 completion.

District Chairwoman Tanya Robinson said when North Charleston proposed the partnership, “we knew we would be foolish if we didn’t grab it.”

Superintendent Joe Pye spoke well of the partnership between the entities, “and I hope it can be a model for many other communities to work together to achieve the impossible.”

Mayor Keith Summey said the facility is going to be “first-class,” one that both entities will be proud of – one that will draw in visitors from outside the area.

“I couldn’t be more proud of where we are today, as a city, as a school district – I’ll tell you right now: Dorchester 2 is one of the finest school districts in the state of South Carolina,” he said.

Plans for the aquatic center include a 10-lane, 50-meter competition swimming pool and a 25-yard program pool that will support warm-ups for the swim team but also swimming lessons and other programs.

The facility also includes locker rooms, a concession area, retractable bleachers that can seat up to 1,000, equipment rooms and administrative areas, among other features.

There are already plans for the new roadway from the center to the high school to be completed before the beginning of school.

Voters passed a $7.5 million bond referendum in 2012 for an aquatic center. The initial estimated $15 million price tag of the facility has since bumped up to $22.5 million – the district’s $7.5 million commitment remains the same.

The city awarded a low bid in the amount of $21,016,500 to Brantley Construction Services for the project at its May 24 council meeting. Brownstone Construction Group was also awarded the bid for project management for $321,000.

The facility will be operated and maintained by the city at the city’s expense and be open to the general public.

Wednesday’s ceremony wrapped up with officials putting shovels in the dirt.