University considers future of Wells Fargo Sports Complex pool

The university administration is currently considering repurposing the swimming pool in the Wells Fargo Sports Complex. A review by UAA Facilities found that the pool facilities are in need of refurbishment. The report also identified potential concepts for the future of the area.

Wells Fargo Pool

“There are significant issues with the existing pool that need to be addressed in the very near term in order to maintain pool operation,” Chris McConnell, interim director and facilities planner for UAA Facilities, said in an email.

The maintenance backlog of the pool is about $9 million, according to the report. This estimated number includes the costs for the repair of exterior walls as well as the replacement of the pool tank, the supporting pool systems and mechanical systems.

“The unfortunate reality is that if we do nothing, we likely will be faced with closing the pool in the next five to seven years due to insufficient funding to fix significant failures,” McConnell said.

Besides the possibility of keeping the swimming pool and addressing the maintenance issues, the report lists other concepts which would require the are to be converted.

Journalism major David Sramek worked at the issue cage in the sports complex over the summer. He found that the majority of visitors came to the complex because of the pool.

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“I don’t think students would be happy about [the conversion of the pool area] because a lot of people use it – and not just students,” Sramek said.

UAA students, faculty, staff and the general public can access the pool during scheduled recreation hours. The public is paying an admission charge by session; for students enrolled in six or more credits, the admission is covered by the Athletic/Rec fee.

Swimming teams and other water sports groups are also using the pool regularly, Sramek explained.

The goal is to find a concept which tackles the maintenance backlog, reduces operating costs and uses the space of the pool to “support programmatic growth”, according to McConnell.

The swimming pool is part of the recreation opportunities in the WFSC. To keep it a recreational space, UAA Facilities suggested to in-fill the pool and turn it into a volleyball court.

Other possible concepts include the pool’s conversion to a space either designated for student services, classrooms, retail or a combination of all alternative concepts.

Several departments like Enrollment Services, the Institute of Social and Economic Research and the Office of Equity and Compliance are currently in more decentralized locations; they seek relocation due to growing space demands, accessibility of resources and proximity to students.

The pool is close to many buildings on campus, neighboring the Student Union and the skybridge system connecting the west side of campus to the east side.

UAA Facilities has now included the estimated maintenance costs in UAA’s budget request for the University of Alaska system. However, decisions have not been made yet.

“There are currently no approved plans outside of this study for anything other than Facilities’ continued support of the maintenance of the pool,” McConnell said. “Any further action would… require broader conceptualization and community engagement opportunities.”

The issue was also discussed by the Faculty Senate. According to their agenda, the next steps will be to “meet with stakeholders and document concern and impacts” of the pool’s future.