Unexpected construction problems delay opening date for UC Pool

Posted December 12, 2015


The newly renovated University Center Pool was set to open at the end of October, but is still under construction. Construction on the pool began during the last week of May.

According to Daniel Westbrook, executive director of the Student Center Complex, it became apparent that the project was running behind in the middle of October.

Click on the video above to view an audio slideshow about the
University Center Pool Construction by reporter Meredith Sloan

“There were unexpected discoveries of concrete,” said Westbrook. “We expected to find compacted soil, which is must easier to remove.”

The removal of the pipes presented another obstacle. During the last 50 years, the pipes have been replaced with three to four different types of materials yet lacked an electrical shock hazard.

“We didn’t anticipate when it came to ground all of those outlets that there was no electrical shock hazard,” said Westbrook. “We had to add some extra grounding.”

Junior transfer student Victoria De Cardenas said that the pool construction has kept her from experiencing University of Miami to the fullest.

“Even though it’s just the pool, I know that students in previous years have enjoyed it by relaxing between classes,” said De Cardenas. “I missed out on that experience my first semester.”

Similarly, sophomore student Isa Mulvihill said that she is not happy with the unexpected delay.

“It’s really annoying because all my friends from home expect me to be tan,” said Mulvihill. “It is hard to be tan when the pool is closed!”

Recreational Design Construction, based out of Fort Lauderdale, is responsible for all of the renovations. Gary Tarby is the project manager.

Westbrook said “they’ve been very good” and have worked on a lot of these types of pools before.

Construction Area Sign

Recreation Design Construction posts “No Trespassing” notices around the perimeter of the fence (Photos by Meredith Sloan).

“When the time came to install the steel panels, they brought four workers from Poland and four from Italy to install them,” said Westbrook. “They really have access to knowledge.”

Westbrook said that this kind of a renovation only happens once every four or five decades and he doesn’t want to take any short cuts or leave anything out that they haven’t completed.

“Everyone’s on the same page here,” said Westbrook. “It’s an inconvenience, but it’s the right thing to do to get the pool to be 100 percent.”

A serious leak in the pool caused an urgent need for the construction to begin in May.

“About a year ago, we found this pool was losing huge amounts of water, and we had to run so much city water to keep it filled that it was a problem,” said Westbrook. “The old iron pipes that were part of the filtration system were finally giving out.”

Recreational Design Construction decided that the best option to fixing the leak was completely replacing the old gutter system.

The new gutter system is going to change the appearance of the pool.

“If you walked across the deck, you would have to step up onto the coping and then go down into the water,” said Westbrook. “We’re eliminating that and we are actually bringing the gutter system flush so that you can walk straight across. The water will almost be as tall as the deck.”

The pool will utilize a modern chlorination system and discontinue the use of liquid chlorine. Westbrook said that this is environmentally better for the pool.

“We had been wanting to do some improvements to the pool all along so this was the perfect opportunity to do that,” said Westbrook.

UC Pool with Gate

The pool site under construction at the end of Fall Semester 2015.

The pool will also feature a newly resurfaced pool deck, new and refurbished furniture and orange and green color lights. Other athletic capabilities will be added to the pool to benefit the swimming and diving teams.

“For athletics, this is one of the only pools in the country that is shared between athletics and students that is not owned by athletics, but actually by the students,” said Westbrook.

The swim team will benefit from new starting blocks and ladders, increased depth and cooling capabilities to minimize the risk of overheating. The diving team will benefit from a refurbished tower and a water surface disrupter to improve their sight from the tower.

“We’re also changing the men’s pool locker room,” said Westbrook. “The women’s has been renovated a couple of times over the years, yet the men’s still looks like 1965.

The men’s locker room will no long utilize a gang shower. Instead, they will install individual shower stalls.

According to Alexander Urbizagastegui, Pool Operations supervisor, the school is budgeting for this construction between three different departments.

“Within the operations, part of the construction is being done with the University Center, the University of Miami, and the athletics department within the university,” said Urbizagastegui.

This construction will cost an estimated $1.9 million. This cost contains contingency fines, newer light fixtures and extra cabling for the starting blocks so the athletes have the choice to start at one end of the pool to the other end of the pool.

Student Center Complex Sign

A banner hangs near the pool area to keep students informed.

This construction has altered summer and fall operations at the pool.

“School campus clubs are displaced or postponed,” said Urbizagastegui. “The swim team is practicing at Gulliver and the diving team is practicing at Miami-Dade College at the Kendall campus.”

Swim instructor and sophomore student, Caroline Granger, has already felt the impact of the construction.

“It affects me because I don’t get to work for the first semester of school,” said Granger. “But I think it’ll be a really good thing.”

Granger believes that the construction will benefit students and administration alike.

“It’s more relaxing when there are better facilities,” said Granger. “High school kids might like the school better if the pool is nicer.”