Future of the pool is unclear

Kadra Sommersted, Staff Writer

To swim or not to swim. The question will soon be answered.

Chad Altwine, director of Facilities, said that the pool has been under construction since the beginning of January 2017. He said it has been about a year since the college started analyzing the pool, and looking for the best solution for the problem.

“Right now, we are analyzing our options,” said Altwine. “The main drain line that runs under the pool is leaking.”

He said that the location of the leak makes it difficult to fix, and the one technology that is able to fix it isn’t guaranteed to work.

“So that’s what we’re analyzing,” said Altwine. “If it’s feasible for us to repair that line.”

He said that the line runs directly under the pool and building, it goes out towards the Rec Center and under Rice to the alley way.

“The pool and natatorium is at the end of its useful life,” said Altwine. “The pool is 65 years old, and so the mechanical equipment in the pool – the pump system (and) the filtration system – are all at the end of its useful life.”

He said since the pool is a tile pool, the grout lines have leaked, and workers had to put a liner in to stop the leak.

“The pipes and the HVAC system, the roof – all need updates,” said Altwine. “That area is just at the end of its useful life.”

He said that the college knew the pool’s lifespan was coming to an end, after WSC reviewed the master plan.

“(The future of the pool) involves a wide array of college stakeholders,” said Altwine. “Students, community members, faculty and staff – deciding what the best use is of, not only their resources, but of that space.”

He said that it also involves what makes the most sense to do with that area. He said that it is a conversation that needs to happen before any decision is made.

“It’s a very tough decision because it’s a lot of money to fix it,” said Altwine. “And it’s not a guarantee that we can fix it. The last thing we want to do is spend $100,000 on it, and it still leaks or doesn’t last very long. That’s not a very good use of our resources.”

He said the dilemma is that there is no guarantee that the repair will work or last for five to 10 years.

“(If it would last) I think we would do it right away,” said Altwine.

“To tear the pool out, and redo all that,” said Altwine. “You’re talking $1 million to $2 million to do that, which is a huge

This fact brings back the conversation of whether or not a remodel is a good use of their resources.

“The biggest concern I have is that,” said Altwine. “If the pool leaks, that undermines the soil under the foundation of the rest of the building.”

He said the last thing he wants to do is compromise Rice and the Rec Center because it is a risk. He said that if the pool stood off by itself, then there wouldn’t be as much of a risk.

“With a pool and drainage system of this age,” said Jeff Carstens, vice president and dean of students, “there are many potential repairs, some very extensive and expensive.”

Carstens said that the pool will likely remain closed through at least the spring semester. Future plans for the natatorium will depend on the extent and cost of the needed repairs.