New Rec Wellness Pool Gets Go-ahead

The UT System Board of Regents recently approved a $5.9 million budget to completely redo the pool in the Recreation Wellness Center on UTSA’s main campus. The old pool, which closed November 2011, will be dug out, and a new pool will be built.

On January 30, UTSA will choose an architect to design the new pool, which is scheduled to be completed by August 2015.

The original pool, which opened in January 2008, was plagued with construction problems from the beginning. Although the pool was slated to open August 2007, excessive rain pushed that date back. When the pool finally opened five months later, bursting pipes caused several shutdowns.

According to Laura Munroe, Director of Campus Recreation, the problem was extensive: “About every three months another major pipe was breaking.”

During Spring Break of 2008, workers from SpawGlass, contractor for the Wellness Center and the pool, repaired a broken pipe. Two months later, SpawGlass returned to repair “four or five more pipes,” according to Munroe. “What we were doing was we were just being open and losing water.”

Every November, beginning in 2008, SpawGlass repaired the pipes that were buckling underneath the pool. “I want to say (they) graciously came in every time and fixed everything, and never charged UTSA a dime,” Munroe said. Finally, in 2011, SpawGlass told the university they would no longer repair the pipes because they felt their company was not responsible for the structural problems. The pool closed that November.

UTSA Facilities then hired Walter P. Moore, an engineering firm, to conduct a forensics test on the construction. During the year-long study, the engineering firm looked at all construction plans, documents and photos. Their findings revealed that SpawGlass’ construction crews “never removed the clay from the area and filled it with select fill,” Munroe revealed.

Because of those findings, UT system attorneys are currently in talks with all those involved in the construction to determine who is at fault. In the summer of 2012, UTSA received permission to move forward with the new pool.

Once the architectural firm has been chosen, it will begin designing the new pool based on feedback from students. The old pool, as well as the surrounding deck areas, will be completely excavated due to the buckling ground underneath. According to Munroe, “It’s going to be a brand new pool. What we’ve heard from the students is that they want lap lanes, a leisure area, and a spa.”

One “wish list” item is a sauna, which would require erecting a building. Munroe said the staff requested some unisex changing rooms as well as a wet classroom for lifeguard classes. If the budget allows, that building could house a sauna.

However, one casualty of the pool redo is the Lazy River, a feature that focus groups in 2003 wanted for the original pool. “We’re not planning on putting it back in,” Munroe said. “It was minimally used. It was used more by athletics, with walking against the current. And our group exercise classes used it for their group exercises, but it was not used very often.” She added that the Lazy River was also expensive to maintain.

Last spring, Munroe spoke with the UTSA student government to find out what students wanted in the new pool. When pressed about specific requests, Munroe laughed. “They just want water!”

“One of the things we’ve asked for in the contract,” Munroe said, “is that we will have several open forums for students to come in and talk to the architect about what they want. As soon we have that information, we’ll start advertising.”

“I think one of the things that’s so hard to understand, sometimes, is how long it takes to do anything,” Munroe added. Once the firm is selected, the design process is expected to take six to eight months, with construction taking approximately the same amount of time.

 

 

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