Whitten University Center pool features LED lights, temperature regulation system

The first day of spring semester classes also marked the first day the University Center Pool re-opened after a lengthy renovation that saw it closed for the entire fall semester.

The renovation began over summer 2015 to refurbish and replace the pool’s old infrastructure, especially rusted pipes in the plumbing system. While students who were at the University of Miami prior to the fall semester enjoyed the pool before, the re-opening was especially exciting for new students who had not seen the pool during their first semester.

“As someone who loves to swim and loves being in the water, I’m really excited about the opening of the new outdoor pool and I’ve been waiting for it to reopen,” Maheshi Pathirana, a freshman, said. “I’ve spent a lot of time in the pool in the wellness center but it can get crowded and the atmosphere looks so much nicer at the UC pool. I can’t wait to try it for the first time.”

Another freshman, Vicky Kalfayan, was eager to visit the pool after going her first semester at UM without it.

“When you think Miami, you think of chilling by the pool,” Kalfayan said. “It was sad that we couldn’t do it at all during my first semester, but I can see the wait is worth it. The pool looks beautiful and I have heard from so many upperclassmen how fun it is.”

For the pool’s employees, who are mostly students, they either found work elsewhere during the renovations, or did not work at all. They were still on the system’s payroll, and most of them returned with the opening of the pool.

“I worked this morning and got really excited with the new light-emitting diodes (LED) lights inside the pool. They look really cool,” said Ali Bumford, the head lifeguard. “At night, when you turn on the lights, there are green and white fluorescent lights that make the pool look awesome.”

The $1 million renovation project by Student Affairs and the Athletic Department will have a celebration for the re-opening on the pool deck and Lakeside Patio area from noon to 2 p.m. on Thursday. There will be music, barbecue food, giveaways and prizes.

Returning students could see a refurnished pool deck and new lounging furniture. The men’s locker room was also upgraded to look more modern. However, the majority of the changes are below surface level.

“You don’t see much changes from the top. Only noticeable change is the deck. Everything that is new or has been changed is in the pump room and the water quality,” said Alexander Urbizagastegui, the University Center Pool supervisor.

“Corrosion and blockages were seen on virtually every pipe,” Dan Westbrook, executive director of the Whitten University Center, said. “Once we determined that the entire plumbing system needed to be replaced, it only made sense to make some other changes at the same time that would extend the life of the pool for many more decades. And of course the entire pool appears much more modern.”

Apart from changing the pipe system, a new temperature regulation system has been installed to either make the pool cooler or warmer depending on what the temperature is. This is beneficial not only to those using the pool recreationally but also to the UM aquatic teams. The swim team and dive teams, who train competitively in the pool, want the water temperature at a comfortable level.

“Perfect temperature is 84 Fahrenheit. We would adjust accordingly if the pool gets too cold or too hot,” Urbizagastegui said. “In the summer the water can rise up to 90 [Fahrenheit], so this time we can cool it if necessary.”

The automatic system will monitor proper levels 24 hours a day and make adjustments as necessary. The new chemical system installed also ensures that the water is kept in the best condition possible, while eliminating the dangers of having liquid chlorine delivered to the pool weekly.

“First, having clean, pure water is essential for the comfort and safety of our swimmers.  So in the long run, we end up with a more usable, pleasant aquatic environment,” Westbrook said.

The dive boards have been modified as well. During renovations, the water line came up by six inches. In order for the dive team to compete, they need the water level to be on the same level from the platform to the water. To counter this, Urbizagastegui said that the platforms were raised by seven inches to compensate for the distance. A new paint job will also be applied to the diving boards.