Sea Level Diving to expand in Crystal Lake

CRYSTAL LAKE – Sea Level Diving in Crystal Lake plans to move to a larger store that is closer to Three Oaks Recreation Area early next year.

The dive shop has been leasing a 2,200-square-foot space at 93 E. Berkshire Drive since 1999. Owner Art Koch is planning to build a 5,000-square-foot scuba training facility at 296 Liberty Drive with more retail space, additional parking, and a pool for lessons.

The new store will be a short walk from Three Oaks Recreation Area. Sea Level Diving started offering training dives at the city-owned recreation area earlier this year.

Koch expects to break ground on the new facility later this month and open the new store in February. The current Berkshire Drive store will remain open throughout construction, he said.

In addition to the pool, the building will have space for training areas, classrooms, and offices.

For years, Koch has used a training tank for scuba lessons. Having an indoor pool and nearby dive site at Three Oaks Recreation Area will make the lessons much more convenient for patrons.

They will be able to get all the classroom, pool, and dive training necessary for certification in Crystal Lake, Koch said.

Koch said he wanted to expand for many years and decided to take advantage of lower real estate prices by buying vacant land adjacent to the recreation area.

"I had always looked to do something like this," he said. "I hope to grow the business and bring on full-time staff."

Because of the scope of the project and its location near Crystal Lake's prime retail corridor, Koch was able to take advantage of financial incentives from the city.

In September, the Crystal Lake City Council approved a $5,000 grant to help defer the cost of furnishing the new facility. The grant was part of the city's 2011 Retailer and Manufacturer Job Creation and Investment Programs.

Not including the purchase price of the property, Koch plans to invest about $500,000 in the business including about $10,000 in furnishings, according to city grant documents.

The city also waived half of all Sea Level Diving's development fees because the dive shop will be in one of the city's targeted economic development zones.

This was the first year that Koch used a section of the nearly 500-acre Three Oaks Recreation Area for scuba diving. Koch said dives this summer went well and that he hopes in continue using the park in the future.

Sea Level Diving:

What: A store that sells scuba and snorkeling equipment, organizes diving trips, rents equipment and offers scuba and snorkeling lessons, equipment service, repairs and air fills.
Where: 93 Berkshire Drive Crystal Lake.
Information: Call 815-479-0996, or visit http://www.sealeveldiving.com.

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