The Oklahoma City Community College 50-meter pool will close at the end of the summer of 2015, the school’s president Paul Sechrist announced today. That will end the pool’s 25-year run as a center piece of swimming in Oklahoma.
An email from college president Paul Sechrist said that the pool would close on September 7th, after the Labor Day weekend, but a notice posted on the door to the facility Wednesday said that it would close on August 31st.
Sechrist said that the pool was close to its “functional and physical obsolesce,” and that “without significant investment, it’s only a matter of time before the aging infrastructure experiences a catastrophic system/mechanical failure.”
Sechrist cited $280,000 per year in annual maintenance, and a architecturally-generated estimate of $6 million to repair.
The pool was originally built for the 1989 U.S. Olympic Festival (not the same as the Olympic Games) as an outdoor facility, and enclosed in 1991. It includes a 50-meter long competition pool, a separate diving well, and a full complement of diving boards and platforms. The facility seats 1,000 in the stands plus an additional 500 on deck.
While the high-quality facility at Jenks and the new Mitch Park YMCA Aquatic Center will soften the blow some, this is the second piece of key swimming infrastructure in Oklahoma to close recently. In late 2013, the pool at the University of Central Oklahoma closed as well.
The OCCC pool has also been the host of some version of the famed Oklahoma City ProAm meet for decades, and with two teams now claiming the right to host that meet, the battle for the water in which to host it will become more intense.
At least 2 club teams (King Marlin Swim Club and American Energy Swim Club) use the pool, as well as at least 7 high school teams.
Krista Kezbers, the head coach of the Extreme Aquatic Team that does not currently use the OCCC pool, says that the pool will be a huge loss to the state’s burgeoning swimming community. “It’s the only pool on this side of the state that can host a large meet,” Kezbers, a former University of Minnesota swimmer said. “David Plummer and I grew up swimming there, it’s been an important part of swimming in this state for a long time.”
“This pool closing is a step backwards for Oklahoma swimming where we are already busting at the seams for more pool space. There’s no other place for those kids to swim.”
The OCCC pool, which is known as one of the fastest pools in the state, was where Jenny Thompson broke the American Record in the 100 yard fly in 1998 when she swam 51.07 – lowering the record by almost seven-tenths of a second.
The full email from the president is below. A press release can be seen here.
I have approved a recommendation to suspend operations of the OCCC Aquatic Center following the Labor Day Weekend of this year. I assure you this decision was made following a careful review and with the full understanding of the significant contribution the Center has made to the College and Oklahoma City since it was built in 1989.
The rationale for the decision is as follows:
• A highly respected and experienced consulting firm concluded that the Aquatic Center at OCCC, which is over 25 years old, is nearing “functional and physical obsolesce.” In order for OCCC to continue operations, the facility requires an investment of over $6 million in needed repairs, upgrades, and replacement of equipment and systems.
• Without this significant investment, it is only a matter of time before the aging infrastructure experiences a catastrophic system/mechanical failure. OCCC does not have the funds needed to recover from a major system/mechanical failure, forcing the closure of the facility. This scenario would require our partners with scheduled activities in the Aquatic Center to either cancel the activity or scramble to find another venue.
• The consultant also concluded that even with a significant investment in the infrastructure and mechanical systems, the Aquatic Center “does not have the ability to be a national caliber, state-of-the-art, long-course venue.” This conclusion is based on changed water depth requirements and wall inlet system differences that are now required for national/international competitive venues. In addition, the materials and finishes used at the Aquatic Center at OCCC are not consistent with newer, national/international level, long-course aquatic venues. Even with a significant investment in the current facility, the consultant concluded that the OCCC Aquatic Center would at best be a good training venue.
• The costs to operate the Aquatic Center are an on-going concern. Although OCCC does charge for use of the Aquatic Center, the direct costs to operate the center far exceed the revenue resulting in an average annual operating loss of $280,000.
As a state-funded college, OCCC faces continued financial challenges to meet the increasing mandatory cost increases necessary to serve our college students. The operational financial losses of the Aquatic Center, coupled with the looming requirement to devote millions of dollars in the infrastructure and mechanical systems to maintain a training venue that is not core to the mission of the college, has in many ways, forced this decision.
There is no doubt that the Aquatic Center has played a significant role in the history of OCCC and Oklahoma City. For over 25 years, this center has hosted numerous swim teams, diving clubs, state events, and national tournaments. However, the present day functional, operational, financial, and mission realities are overwhelming and compelling, resulting in the decision to close the Aquatic Center.
The future plans for the Aquatic Center space have not yet been determined. The space is contiguous to the existing Wellness Center, Social Sciences Division, College/Student Union, and outdoor space that the College’s Master Site Plan has as a future site for other sports venues (baseball diamond, volleyball courts, and running track). Therefore, the Aquatic Center space will be evaluated and eventually repurposed for programs and services that take into consideration its location and that align with the College’s strategic plans, the Master Site Plan, and the needs of our students and the community.