Administrators share tentative plans for new swimming pool

Hamilton Pool is pictured on Feb. 16, 2018. (Evan Sayles / The Tufts Daily)

The university is tentatively exploring plans to construct a new pool facility, according to Barbara Stein, vice president of operations at Tufts. While there is no existing timeline for design and construction, the pool would replace the current Hamilton Pool, which serves the university’s aquatic teams, students and members of the Medford and Somerville communities.

“To serve all of the many users’ needs, the university envisions an Olympic-size pool measuring 50 meters long by 25 yards wide. This is similar in size to pools at Tufts’ Academic and Athletic peer colleges and universities, and would enhance the ability of the university’s aquatic teams to compete while also making the pool more accessible to the members of the Tufts community and potentially enabling Tufts to host local high school [swimming] championships,” Stein told the Daily in an email.

According to Stein, any major new athletics facilities will be funded by generous donors and the university is still in the early stages of generating interest for the project. However, Stein noted that recent planning has been undertaken to establish a target budget for capital costs as well as estimates for annual operating expenses in order to build donor interest.

“We’re working to build excitement for the project among alumni and friends, and are encouraged by the enthusiasm of our supporters for this project and by the early gifts that they have pledged. The strongest driver of interest in a project like this is that we have a proud tradition of success among our swimming and diving teams but facilities that don’t measure up to that success. We still have a great deal of work to do to secure funding, but we are very optimistic,” Eric C. Johnson, senior vice president for university advancement, told the Daily in an email.

Stein added that in current 2018 dollars, the new facility would cost in excess of $30 million to construct.

Once funds are secured for the project, the construction of the new pool would take roughly two years to complete, according to Michael Skeldon of Tufts Facilities Services, project manager for the construction of the pool. While the exact location of the facility has not yet been decided, the area across from the Steve Tisch Sports and Fitness Center and Cousens Gym has been investigated as a likely site.

“We want [the pool] to be near the athletic complex in order to work in concert with the other activities, for staffing purposes, for maintenance, and for the convenience of the student athletes, but exactly where still needs to be worked out — both because of permitting issues as well as very technical issues like dimensions and soil conditions,” Skeldon said.

Stein emphasized that any project of this type would require significant consultation with neighbors and approval by city officials, a process that she said the university is committed to undertaking at the appropriate time.

The university has maintained previous intentions to replace the Hamilton Pool, which is the oldest swimming pool of any school in the New England College Athletic Conference (NESCAC). According to a Daily article from 2002, a master plan of improvements to Tufts’ facilities created in 1990 included the construction of a new pool. However, the university had other financial priorities at the time, and no effort was made to pursue the new pool as a special fundraising project.

Since then, Hamilton Pool’s current deteriorating conditions and usage constraints have largely necessitated the construction of a new facility, according to John Morris, Tufts’ athletic director.

“As early as the 1980s, it was apparent that the Hamilton Pool was nearing the end of its useful life, both technically and functionally, and that its limited size was insufficient for a university with an enrollment as large as Tufts. In an effort to extend the life of this aging facility, the university has had to invest significant resources into Hamilton Pool over the years to keep it functioning safely for pool users,” Morris told the Daily in an email.

According to Adam Hoyt, head coach of the men’s and women’s swim teams and director of aquatics programs at Tufts, Hamilton Pool currently serves varsity swim teams, club water polo, physical education classes, recreational swimming and community swim programs.

However, the pool’s severe limitations have impacted these programs’ usage of the facility. According to Hoyt, whose men’s swim team won the NESCAC Championship in February, the men and women’s diving teams currently rent pool time at MIT to train due to the size restrictions of Hamilton Pool. The pool is 25 yards long by 36 feet and six lanes wide, approximately half the size of an Olympic-sized pool.

“We’re definitely cramped in the pool, and a bigger pool would obviously mean more space, which would give us flexibility to focus on specific aspects of our training. But I think the biggest change [a new facility would bring] would be for divers — it would be most beneficial for them because they have to go to MIT every day,” James McElduff, a senior and a co-captain of the men’s swimming and diving team, said.

Amber Chong, a diver, concurred, explaining that the commute to MIT to practice took valuable time out of her schedule.

“The fact that I can’t practice at the pool affects me greatly,” Chong, a first-year, told the Daily in an email. “The round trip of [traveling] and practice takes about 4 hours and that is very valuable time that is taken away from me, since I could’ve been doing homework, studying, or doing extracurricular activities. My academic performance has suffered as well, but we try to do our best with the circumstances.”

According to Hazen Breen, captain of the men’s club water polo team, the general conditions of the Hamilton Pool area are also poor.

“The air quality is pretty problematic sometimes. When you get 20 to 25 people in there working out really hard, it’s hard to describe … You can tell there’s not enough oxygen in the air, it almost feels like you just start puffing and hacking and end up out of breath,” Breen, a senior, said.

While Hoyt said that Hamilton Pool has worked fine for creating a championship-winning team and culture, he noted that a larger, better-equipped facility would still have a significant impact on the university’s aquatics teams. Hoyt said that a new pool would open up the potential for hosting a variety of events, such as the NESCAC championships or the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) diving regionals.

Hoyt also emphasized what a new pool facility would mean for the greater Tufts community as well as for Medford and Somerville. He discussed an expanded community swim program, other clubs’ usage of the pool facility, such as the Tufts Mountain Club for kayak-rollover training, and even the potential of scuba classes.

“Our first priority is going to be how we can give the greater Tufts community access to this facility in ways that improve its quality of life, improve its happiness on campus, and improve its yearly happiness, and then we’re going to look to contribute to the greater good of our bigger communities, like the Medford and Somerville areas. I think that the idea of active citizenship on a Tufts campus is fostered — in part — through our facilities and what goes on in them and I don’t think that the new pool would be any different,” Hoyt said.

Jeremy Goldstein contributed reporting to this article.


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