Upkeep Your Aquatics Facility

Aquatics Renovations

Imminent danger of catastrophic failure.

That was the evaluation the University of Houston’s aquatics facility received in 2011 after it started replacing valves in the plumbing of the pump room. Rachel O’Mara, the associate director of facilities and operations, said while the project could have been phased, the implications and cost, as well as down time, would have been significantly higher.

“Updating and/or renovating is important to make sure you have the best equipment to keep both your water and air quality exceeding recommended standards,” said O’Mara. “However, even more important than just updating or renovating is the preventative maintenance done on your current equipment.”

Keeping your pool up-to-date can look like a lot of different things. As O’Mara said, it can be planning for equipment to be replaced at the end of its lifecycle or simply upkeeping along the way. She said avoiding the “Band-Aid approach” versus just making small repairs can cause more costly repairs in the long run — thus why Houston chose to do a full renovation that included its filtration systems, above ground plumbing, chemical feed systems, new plaster in its competition pool, indoor lighting, dehumidification system, timing system and scoreboards.

Over at the University of California, Davis, the aquatics facility is undergoing a renovation to be completed in the summer of 2019. Jeff Heiser, the associate director of recreation, said it is a much-needed update that will add to the already valuable center. Plus, it addressed an impractical mechanical system and safety issues with the pool bottom and deck.

The project consists of two pools. One is a recreational pool and the other is a multi-functional activity pool. A sand volleyball court, gender-inclusive restroom and changing room, indoor and outdoor showers, heated locker room, and solar water heating are also part of the renovation. 

Figuring out what to put in the renovation came down to asking students what they wanted. Heiser said prior to the renovation, most users were non-students. They are now hoping that will change. “Most students visited the pool to socialize, read and lounge in the sun,” he said. “Enhancements at the aquatics facility will help to support students while they study, engage in other recreation activities, and open the pool to additional student clubs and teams. With the construction of the dedicated lap pool, student club teams have another option for practice time on campus.”

But after spending time analyzing usage trends and interests, and deciding what to move forward on, Heiser said getting students onboard and supporting the project is essential to its success. “Campus rec professionals need to work with student groups in order for them to understand the intent of the project and provide valuable input and support the project,” he said.

Once it’s determined what is all going into a renovation, then comes planning the project. O’Mara said having the right consultant and design team is essential to be cost effective. Plus, seeing how other aquatics facilities run is beneficial. “How something is designed to work and how it has been implemented and used at another facility may be helpful information to have, especially if you are planning to have significant changes or upgrades to the system,” said O’Mara. “If at all possible, go visit other pump rooms in the area and talk to their operators to see the things they like and don’t like and why.”

For O’Mara, success in renovation of aquatics facilities all comes down to planning. This can help you in educating your leaders about what costs are coming up or what renovations will be needed. “Proper maintenance and upkeep is what will keep your facility operation well for the duration of that lifespan and potentially beyond,” she said.    

Heather Hartmann is the editor for Campus Rec Magazine. She can be reached at heather@peakemedia.com.

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