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The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

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Megan Poe
Opinion Editor

My name is Megan Poe and I’m an English (writing concentration) and Philosophy double major at Northern. My concurrent experience with being published in and interning for literary magazines has landed...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas Wiertella April 30, 2024

Pipe dream: Can the pool be saved?

Over the course of the year, numerous people submerge themselves in the chlorinated waters of the Northern Michigan University swimming pool. From all-age swim classes to a senior exercise program, the pool is a common gathering point for several varied groups of people.

It appears, however, that the end may be near for the 31-year old pool, which is located in the Physical Education Instructional Facility (PEIF).

“The pool is failing, slowly but surely,” Jon Wilson, NMU women’s swimming and diving head coach, said. “It’s been failing for a while. As far as what’s failing on it, it’s hard to say. Nothing is on life support right now. It’s just an old pool. It’s a great facility, it’s a great pool and it’s 30 years old.”

At this late point, said Wilson, the pool’s infrastructure-the filtration and drainage systems that are lodged beneath the PEIF’s aging tiles-could stop functioning at any time.

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Adding to the problem is the fact that in the last three decades the requirements for competition pools have changed. The most drastic change may be that the pool must now be 60 inches deep at the starting blocks. NMU’s starting blocks hang over only 48 inches of water.

The athletic department is currently taking steps to prolong the life of the pool, including spending $8000 on filters, which were purchased since the end of the winter semester.

“We’ll be putting in between $10,000 and $15,000 this year as a band-aid, so to speak, to keep it going and everything like that,” Godfrey said. “If we get into the major renovations then we would have to bring it up to code.”

According to consultation that NMU has received, bringing the pool completely up to code could cost more than $2 million. The university feels that, in the long term, there are better solutions, including the possible construction of a new pool, said Godfrey, who added that the cost of a new pool may range from $6 million to $8 million, depending on amenities. That kind of money isn’t easy to get, though, and the athletic department has been unable to seriously consider any long-term options at this point.

“Right now we can’t even put it on our list or anything like that,” Godfrey said. “We couldn’t come close. I don’t have that kind of money, nor does this institution right now.”

With numerous community events and activities taking place in the pool, a possible failure would affect more than just Northern students.

“My biggest fear is that if this pool fails, we’re not going to have the money to build a new pool,” Wilson, whose team uses the pool 10-20 hours per week, nine months a year, said. “There is going to be a period of probably years that there will be no pool. That being said, I think we’re a big school in a small community and we’re the central figure in this community. I think Northern needs to have a pool.”

The members of the athletic department are also aware of the inconveniences that would be caused by such a scenario.

“It actually means a lot,” Carl Bammert, NMU’s associate director of facilities, said. “There are classes in there through the HPER department that PE majors are required to take right now. If we didn’t have a pool they would have to restructure that area. It’s a revenue-producer for our department through our membership program and also through our swim lessons that we have. Families come and use it. It would be a drain as far as affecting the community and it would hurt a little bit.”

If the scenario plays out, though, the women’s swimming and diving team may be hurt more than anyone. In April the team met with representatives from the NMU athletic department and was told that the team was only guaranteed to be around for one more year.

“I’m honest with my team, and I was in shock, because we were only guaranteed one more year.” Wilson said. “I hadn’t heard that until we were all in there together.”

As the possibility of NMU swimming coming to an end increases, Wilson said that the team has started to rally around the idea. The future of the group remains uncertain, though, and come this time next year, there could be 25 swimmers with no scholarships and a coaching staff without jobs.

“We will be around for one more year for sure,” Wilson said. “After that we will have to wait and see what the university wants to do, what the athletic department wants to do and what can be done.”

Wilson said that since news broke of the deteriorating pool he has also had much more trouble recruiting new swimmers, already losing four recruits for next season.

“I am very honest with the recruits because I don’t know any other way to do it,” he said. “I told them when they were here for their visits, ‘It’s a great pool, however there’s a chance that it might not be around for that much longer.’ Everyone sort of said, ‘Well, sweet. Where’s the new pool?’

“It’s right here for now,” he said, pointing to his temple. “It’s in my head.”

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