News pool of broken dreams

With the design finalized and the contracts signed, construction on the Recreation Wellness Center pool facility on UTSA’s Main Campus can finally commence.

Laura Monroe, Director of the Campus Recreation ensures that there will be some mobilization of the construction project on Aug. 27. However, ground cannot be broken until Sept. 12 due to requirements by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

Byrne Construction Services, the contract company hired for the project, announced that the pool facility is estimated to be a 300-day build, including anticipated delays from rain. Monroe said, “My actual prediction and my hope is that we have it ready for Late Night at the Rec for fall 2016… Fingers crossed, we’ll have it ready…”

In September of 2014, former UTSA facilities project coordinator John Perez said, “The new pool’s construction has a start date of March 2015 and an end date of February 2016.”

When asked about the delayed start date of Aug. 2015, Director of Capital Projects Robert Espinoza explained, “The bids came in over the budgeted amount…so we were negotiating with a contractor on how to get the price down a million dollars.” The budget for the pool is approximately $6.6 million.

Besides closing about 60 parking spaces next to the Rec, Monroe is confident that the construction should not affect day-to-day activities.

The new pool facility will have no resemblance to the current structure. It will feature a leisure pool with a lounge shelf that has enough room for group activities like water volleyball and a separate 8-lane, 25-foot lap pool for more rigorous swimming activities. The new design will not include the notorious lazy river and will eliminate the basketball court and one of the sand volleyball courts.

Marmon Mok is the architectural firm behind the design, and Shawn Bacon, an alumnus of UTSA’s College of Architecture, is the lead architect of the project. Marmon Mok has designed facilities for several universities around the state including the Texas State University Recreation Center and the Texas A&M University- Kingsville Student Recreation Center.

However, the old pool’s faults were due less to its design and more to its construction. Shortly after the pool opened, piping began to break underneath the pool and water was draining at an unmanageable rate.

Espinoza explains, “We had a lot of subsurface crevasses where water was draining to the low spot of the area, which was the pool.” This water caused the clay underneath the pool to expand and eventually resulted in broken pipes and cracked concrete.

For the first couple of years, SpawGlass, the original contractors of the pool, willingly fixed the breaking pipes at no charge to UTSA, but in 2011, they said they would no longer fix the pipes without compensation.

After legal action was taken by UTSA, Espinoza confirms that SpawGlass was not found at fault for the whole project, but “they were found at fault for not putting in proper select fill (a non-expansive clay sand mixture).” Eventually, a settlement was received from SpawGlass.

Bryne Construction Services will try to learn from the old pool’s faults. After demolition, Monroe explains, “They will go down about 10-feet to get rid of the clay… And then put back in select fill and dig the pool out of that.”

Students have been without a rec pool since repairs were halted in 2011, and many different dates have been thrown around about the pool’s reconstruction. Senior Lauren Vickrey reflected on her first visit to the campus in spring of 2011, “I was super excited about the lazy river being there. The pool was not full at the time, but they talked about it like it would be eventually… For the past five years, I haven’t had access to the pool.”

Senior Charles Torrez who will graduate before the pool’s reconstruction said, “A lot of my friends go to other universities and they have pools on campus. It’s kind of sad that I never got to experience that.”

Monroe reflects, “We’ve been patiently waiting for UTSA and the UT-System to give us the go ahead to build. We know it has been a long time since students have seen water in the pool.”

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