In a mid-October swim meet, Jr. Alaina Wittum took her stance on the block. Her parents watched from the bleachers with their cameras ready. Seconds before the starter went off, there was a loud crash. As visiting parents sat down, the plastic bleacher broke underneath them. Distracted, Wittum’s parents missed her leaving the block.
The pool hasn’t received renovations in over 20 years. This March, West Ottawa closed the pool to start renovations. Pleune Service Company is installing a new air system, scoreboard, drains, diving boards, lights, and metal bleachers, and they are repainting the pool and ceiling.
The most challenging renovation is the new air handling system. Contractors removed four huge panels of glass from the left side of the mural in the South pool entrance to fit a crane inside.
The location of the old air system made removal difficult. The old system was located in the middle of the top floor. “They had to cut out the old system and bring it out in parts,” Swim Coach Steve Bowyer said. Contractors brought out the system in pieces because removing the system in one piece wouldn’t be possible.
The old system didn’t circulate air effectively and made breathing in the pool difficult. The only fresh air in the pool came from a door. Soph. swimmer Jamahl Hogan said, “I couldn’t imagine being in lane 6, far away from the door,” Luckily, Hogan swam in lane one, so after finishing a set, he could get fresh air from the doorway.
“West Ottawa hosted the conference meet three years ago, and it was unbearable. If you’re not swimming, and you’re in the stands it’s terrible,” said Instructor Laurel Soto. Spectators spent many meets uncomfortably sweating and breathing in the hot air, but those days are over.
Swimmers and spectators excitedly await the new air system, which will have the biggest impact on the pool. With the new system, Hogan won’t run to the door after every set for some fresh air. And while watching meets, spectators won’t struggle to stay cool.
Repainting and re-tiling the pool are also important. “The corners on some ends were kind of sharp. I would have to watch where my hand was as I got out of the pool,” Jr. Khadin Soto said. Swimmers shouldn’t have to worry about cutting their hands in the pool, and soon they won’t have to.
The repainting and tiling process is difficult. The pool lays overtop of a high water table, so draining the pool takes away pressure from the bottom of the pool. Groundwater could seep into the pool because the pressure is gone and create cracks.
To handle this situation, “They have to continually pump water underneath the pool; no pressure underneath will ruin the pool,” Bowyer said. Although draining the pool caused extra work, new tiles were needed for the sake of the swimmer’s hands.
Swimmers also excitedly await the new scoreboard. Frosh. Josh Rottier recalls the scoreboard malfunctioning at meets. “The times would show up completely different sometimes. I’m really excited about the new scoreboard.” said Rottier. The new scoreboard will have improved technology, which all the swimmers will benefit from.
The pool renovations are expected to be done by the end of July, in time for the girls swim season, which begins August 8.
The swim teams work hard and these renovation will improve practices and meets, and Wittum’s parents won’t miss another picture because of faulty bleachers.