Pulliam pools to close

By Tara Kulash

A home to many clubs, classes and frequent swimmers will be closed permanently because of old age and high maintenance fees.

Members of the SIU Board of Trustees will vote in May for a renovation of Pulliam Hall, including the removal of the building’s two pools.

The project will include decommissioning the pools, installing a new floor, potentially adding a new level in the gymnasium and constructing new studios, classrooms and faculty offices, according to the project and budget approval.


It will also include upgrades to the mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems.

The newly opened space will be assigned to the School of Art and Design, with some studio space that may be shared with the School of Architecture.

The estimated cost of the redesign is $7 million.

Chancellor Rita Cheng said the student facilities maintenance fee will pay for the project, but the fee won’t have to rise in order to pay off the debt.

She said the building’s redesign will bring in more space for the art and design faculty, labs and studios that are placed in the blue barracks. After the reconfiguring of the space in Pulliam, she said, the blue barracks will be torn down.

SIU President Glenn Poshard said there is a great need on campus for expanding programs and Pulliam seems like the best place to house them.

Kevin Bame, vice chancellor for administration and finance, said the independent consulting firm, Counsilman-Hunsaker, looked at the nearly 60-year-old pools in August 2009 and found that the fixtures, electrical and filtration systems are original to the structure and outdated.

Bame said there are piping and valve issues, rust, patchwork, plumbing leaks and filters that have had to have pieces welded together on them to hold them up. There are even old control systems that don’t work anymore.

After the firm evaluated the pools, it came to the conclusion that maintenance and renovation of them would cost $322,368 without architectural and engineering designer fees.

With inflation after three years plus the architectural and engineering fees, Bame estimated the total cost would be about $500,000.

“It is at the end of its life cycle,” he said.

Cheng said the pool will have to be phased out no matter what happens with the renovation project.

“It’s old,” she said. “Mechanically, the inners are shot and we cannot continue to maintain the pool.”

Bame said another concern is that the pool isn’t used enough.

Lifeguards at the pool said otherwise, such as Kimmi Fowler, a senior from Wheeling studying recreation, and Alexis Herman, a senior from Quincy studying human nutrition and dietetics.

They said while the pool is only open from noon to 1 p.m. daily to the public, it also holds multiple swim classes, the kayak club, kinesiology classes and a family swim time on Fridays.

Cheng said the Recreation Center has a state of the art pool, though, that will meet the needs of the campus.

Jeff Goelz, assistant director for recreational sports and services over aquatics and Base Camp, said the center will adjust for incoming classes.

“We’ll absorb,” he said. “The (Pulliam) pool went down about two years ago to replace some drain covers for three months, and during that time we shifted everything over here, and we did it.”

Some activities won’t be able to shift to the Recreation Center, though.

Herman said there’s a women’s swim time at Pulliam with international women, where because of their culture, the women can’t be seen in swimsuits by men. That amount of privacy won’t be an option at the Recreation Center.

For Alexis Irlam, a senior from Virginia studying leisure services management and president of the kayak club, the closure of the pool means no place for her kayak club to practice. She said the Recreation Center will not allow the team to practice in its pool.

“If they’re closing the pool, I don’t know where to go,” Irlam said.

Fowler said the smaller pool is used for swimming lessons for toddlers, and the children wouldn’t be able to reach the bottom of the pool at the Recreation Center.

Herman said the lap pool is also warmer, which is therapeutic for people with arthritis such as Joan O’Brien.

“I’m learning how to swim at 85,” O’Brien said.

After a knee replacement last year, she said her doctor told her it’s important to keep swimming, so she’s been going to Pulliam ever since.

However, Bame said, there still is very limited use of the pool, as there are only two kinesiology classes that use it, and enrollment in those classes has dropped. In fall 2009, there were 64 students, in spring 2010 there were 65 students, and in fall 2010 there were 26 students in the class.

He said a $50,000 investment doesn’t make sense when there’s limited use of the pools, and they’re being paid for by state tax dollars and students’ tuition.

On top of the failing pools, Bame said, it’s also important to note how much the art and design and architecture programs need the building. He said the blue barracks were never intended to last until 2012 because they were put up inexpensively and in a hurry.

“We really need to do them right, because each of those programs are nationally renowned,” he said.

Peter Chametzky, chairman for the School of Art and Design, sent a letter to the chancellor Jan. 23 in support of the renovation.

“The School of Art and Design supports this proposal overwhelmingly, enthusiastically and by unanimous vote,” the letter stated.

Still, some swimmers are upset by the removal.

“I know it’s expensive to maintain, but this is an expensive campus to maintain,” said Brian Rice, a clinical instructor in health education, who swims in the pool during his lunch hour.

Poshard said he wasn’t aware people are upset by the closure.

“But you have to look at things in the overall context of what’s best for the university,” he said.

Cheng said planning stages will begin soon and renovations will probably begin as early as spring 2013 if approved by the board.