Pulliam swimmers reminisce while staff awaits space

As many Pulliam swimmers leave behind memories of the building’s pool, students and staff alike will get the opportunity to make some of their own.

“I was here the first day the pool was opened back when I was in kindergarten, and now I’m coming here to swim on the last free swim the pool will ever have,” said Bill Vogler, department chair of kinesiology.

Pulliam pool, which has been around since the 1960s, held its last free swim from 12 to 1 p.m. Friday, and many people came to show support for the facility as well as their anger toward its removal as they chanted “Save Pulliam pool” in unison.

Community members attend the last open swim at Pulliam pool Friday. The pool, which was used for open swim, classes, club use and physical therapy, has been closed to make room for the Schools of Art and Design, Architecture and Social Work. Lynnette Oostmeyer | Daily Egyptian

The swimming area and gym areas will be repurposed to make space for the art and design, architecture and social work programs because administrators say the pool is too old to maintain anymore. The Recreation Center pool will be able to host some classes that were taught at Pulliam’s pool, Vogler said, but canoeing is one that won’t make the transition.

Many community members say they are upset about the pool’s repurposing because it was home to multiple swim clubs, classes and programs. The pool also had warmer water and helped swimmers with arthritis maintain comfortable conditions for their health issues.

However, some faculty, staff and students are pleased with the decision to renovate the area because it will be an upgrade to their current learning spaces and ultimately benefit their programs.

All of the programs currently reside in outdated spaces. Art and design and architecture classes are located in the blue barracks — a building with numerous maintenance problems — and the social work program is located in the basement of Quigley Hall, a space with multiple safety issues.

Chancellor Rita Cheng said demolition will begin this month and construction will start over the winter months. She said existing staff will take on the labor, such as demolition and cleanup, and any task too big for the school will be contracted out to other firms.

She said the process will take about 18 months, and the space is anticipated for use as early as fall 2014.

The service maintenance fees students pay at the beginning of every school year will pay for the $7 million project, Cheng said.

She said although many people are upset about the pool’s removal, numerous students from multiple programs will benefit from the facility once it’s complete.

“There are always trade-offs,” she said. “When I make decisions, and when the staff makes recommendations, we always know that there are those who agree with it and those who don’t. But in this case, we actually have hundreds of students who will benefit from this decision.”

Kay Pick Zivkovich, interim director and assistant director for the School of Art and Design, said she understands just how appreciated the new space will be.

Zivkovich said the barracks should have been more like temporary housing for the school but instead turned into a 40-year endeavor. She said there have been constant bug and rodent problems in the barracks, and the heating and cooling units have long outlasted their primes.

“The fact that we might be operating out of a real building rather than a temporary building says something about our current situation,” she said.

She said even though the art and design department was more interested in a new building, a new location was absolutely a step in the right direction.

Mizanur Miah, director and professor of social work, said the program has been located in the basement of Quigley in his 33 years as a teacher, and that has created health and educational problems. The move to Pulliam has been one Miah said he awaited for many years.

“This place is going down every day,” Miah said. “Just the other day there was a water break, and there have been inspections into the existence of asbestos in the building. So, for us, it’s an advantage, and I would like to thank Chancellor Cheng.”

Zivkovich said she still sympathizes with pool supporters despite her excitement for the space’s future use.

“I’ve swam in the Pulliam pool and observed, and I know that there are a lot of people that are unhappy, but at the same time we have to find ways to move ahead,” she said.

Vogler said he’ll always remember the pool not just as a place where he learned to swim and grow up, but a place where many American records were set and many great swimmers showcased. He said swimmers such as Ray Padovin, Norbert Rumple and Ed Shea — the man who the Recreation Center pool was named after — swam and coached at Pulliam pool.

Howard Harris, alumnus and former swim team member from Greenville, said some of his fondest memories were made at the pool when he swam there collegiately from 1963 to 1967 under coach Ralph Casey.

“I don’t know how he did it, but we all loved him, and he was able to get some really impressive swimmers in the program.”

Justin Dennis, Pulliam swimmer since the ‘70s and Carbondale high school teacher, said he thinks more work should have been done to research possible options other than excavating the Pulliam pool.

“I’m happy the pool area isn’t going to waste, but I can’t help but wonder if all other options were fully explored,” Dennis said. “For the most part, the administration kept silent to the letters we sent them, and honestly we were kept in the dark.”

David Gibson, plant biology professor and Pulliam advocate, said he is no longer angry about the pool’s repurposing, but he still thinks the university is disregarding a huge legacy.

However, not all of the swimmers are as quick to forgive.

John Snyder, former SIUC psychology professor of 39 years from Carbondale, said he used to support the school but will no longer do so.

“I used to donate to Saluki Way, but I won’t do it anymore, not after this and the way they chose to turn a deaf ear to all of us,” he said.

 

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About Austin Flynn

Austin Flynn can be reached at aflynn@dailyegyptian.com or 536-3311 ext.252.

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