Swimmers ousted during pool remodel


HPER pool construction is forcing SDSU’s swim and dive teams to get creative.

Stepping up and facing adversity is the name of the game in college sports. If evidence needs to be provided, look no further than the SDSU swimming and diving team.

Delays in planned renovations and the discovery of other areas that needed attention at the HPER Center Pool leaves the team without a home facility.

What exactly does this mean for the Jacks?

“The biggest issue is just not feeling at home in the water. I’ve swam in that pool for three years now and it’s just a weird feeling. I miss it a lot,” senior swimmer Kyle Avocato said.

The swimmers have been practicing at Brookings High School, having to schedule around high school practices. That means 5:45 a.m. practice times or coming in during the day while school is in session, one less swimming lane, extra organization from the coaches-the list goes on.

“There’s some schedule challenges there, but the actual training (for swimmers), it shouldn’t affect us,” head coach Brad Erickson said. “It’s a different story for the divers.”

Brookings High School may have a pool, but doesn’t have diving boards to match. The solution for now is having the divers practice on a trampoline set up in the balcony of Frost Arena, which is used for working on twists and body control. Erickson said he’s even been in contact with the University of North Dakota to see if his divers could use UND’s facilities for a few weekends to get some practice in on the boards before their first meet on Oct. 15.

Erickson was quick to assure that he didn’t feel the delays would have a negative impact on the team. He was looking more on the brighter side of things.

“When it’s all said and done, we’re basically going to have a brand new pool. It’s going to be a new deck, new gutter system, new diving boards…it will be something very appealing once we get there,” Erickson said.

The pool deck was the project’s main upgrade. The company, RenoSys, was hired for the job, as it previously worked on SDSU’s pool. Originally the plan was to put a new liner over the existing floor. Erickson said the company used that method about 10 years ago. Fast-forward to 2011 and some areas of the 10-year-old deck are warped and wavy.

“The whole thing was just about safety and repair,” Erickson said.

So the pool was drained in early June, and renovations began in late June. RenoSys had initially predicted that the project would take about three weeks. The original deadline was July 31 to finish up the deck.

RenoSys sent a two-man crew to take care of the job. Two weeks later, they added four more workers. The six-man crew needed another three weeks just to remove the old vinyl from the deck.

“The process was just a lot slower than expected. The deadline was moved back to mid-August…then the issue came up with FINA [swimming’s governing body],” Erickson said.

The issue, according to Erickson, was that FINA had changed certain standards pertaining to diving boards. Because the diving board standards were 39 years old and weren’t up to code anymore, they needed to be replaced and a wall needed to be altered.

The wall is near the diving well and used to angle inward. This presented a liability risk to the company selling the diving boards. The company was worried about a diver hitting the wall, which meant they would only sell SDSU the new boards if the angle was taken out of the wall, making it straight and vertical.

In early July, the decision was made to begin work on the wall. This pushed the project back even further and presented another problem. The diving well is the “deep end” of the pool, which makes it hard to work near the ceiling without room for the use of scaffolds.

Now, a giant wooden platform stretches across the width and depth of the pool. It looks like something from the set of Titanic, minus the water and Leo DiCaprio.

The newest deadline is Oct. 1, and Erickson hopes he can get his swimmers and divers in their home pool a few weeks before their first meet. But, the team has weathered the storm so far.

“It’s causing our team to become closer earlier in the season,” Acocato said. “Normally it takes us a bit, but this year the team is already getting along great, which is awesome.”

Some coaches or players would be angry or upset about being in this situation. That isn’t the way Erickson or his swimmers have handled it.

“We’ll make it work. There are going to be challenges along the way, but we’re going to keep it positive,” Erickson said.