FHSU's Cunningham Hall swimming pool reopens after extensive renovation

After almost a year of work, Fort Hays State University's indoor swimming pool -- the natatorium -- was reopened at a news conference today in Cunningham Hall, home of physical education at the university.

Since September 2004, FHSU has replaced the fiberglass lining with PVC, replaced entirely the pumps and chlorinating equipment, upgraded lighting to meet the clean and green standards and put new paint on the walls and ceilings.

"The pool is a vital part of the health, physical education and recreation education at Fort Hays State and a vital part of community life," said FHSU President Edward H. Hammond, announcing the reopening, "and we are delighted to be able to reopen it in time for the new academic year."

Hammond, remarking on the echo effect in the pool room, noted that acoustic panels for the walls could not be acquired and installed in time for the reopening and will be installed sometime in the fall.

"But we thought it was more important to our educational mission and our commitment to the community to open the pool in time for the new academic year rather than delay the reopening just to complete all the incidental details," he said.

Hammond also announced that an open-pool day will be scheduled sometime in the fall so that the public can see and use the pool free of charge.

"We appreciate the commitment and support from President Hammond and upper administration in making the repairs and upgrades necessary to reopen the natatorium," said Dr. Jeff Briggs, dean of the College of Health and Life Sciences.

"The facility is essential in providing basic swimming instruction as well as advanced training in water safety and lifeguard instruction. In addition, the facility has played a vital role in providing opportunities for recreational and fitness swimming, specialized aqua-aerobic activities, and as a training and rehabilitation modality for student-athletes," he said. "This facility has served Fort Hays State University students, faculty, staff, and the local and surrounding community for many years and, with the present improvements, will continue to do so for years to come."

Work so far has cost $139,000, which includes the new liner, painting, filter and chlorine equipment, and refurbishing the filter pit. The new acoustic panels for the walls are estimated to cost between $15,000 and $20,000. That portion of the project is still in the bidding stage.

Some costs were reduced by using university personnel for some portions of the work, but the ceiling, because of the wide span and the need for special scaffolding, was contracted out. New lighting -- replacing original fixtures from the building's construction more than 30 years ago -- was covered as part of a $4 million energy performance and improvement contract signed in 2004.

"We now have a much more inviting and useable facility here," said Glen McNeil, interim chair of the Department of Health and Human Performance, who has responsibility for the pool and its use among his duties.

"We replaced the fiberglass liner, which was 15 years old, put in more effective lighting and completely replaced all the pumps, filters, piping and chlorinating equipment," he said.

McNeil said that the new, pellet-type chlorination system takes up far less space -- about 20 cubic feet -- and is far safer to use than the original gas chlorination system, which took up an entire room.

"We are in the process of reinstating all the programming we had before. Once we have fully staffed and trained our life guards, we'll be ready to go."

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Kent Steward, Director   |  ksteward@fhsu.edu  |  Kurt Beyers, Assistant Director   |  kbeyers@fhsu.edu