Water is among the least of concerns for W&L’s new natatorium

By Katrina Lewis

Constructing W&L’s new natatorium has been a challenge, but Lexington water providers say accommodating the new facility won’t be.

The new 589,000-gallon natatorium pool at Washington and Lee University should not pose problems for Lexington’s water supply and treatment, says Maury Service Authority Executive Director Jerry Higgins.

“That is an issue for us—to throw a half-million gallons into the waste-water system. That can be a problem if there’s no notice,” Higgins said. “But if the university calls us ahead of time, we will pay attention.”

Higgins said draining and filling the pool over the course of several days is manageable—as long as the university notifies the city. He said the MSA has 5 million gallons of storage that his customers can use if they need treated water, as the natatorium would.

Draining W&L’s 589,000-gallon pool should not be a problem for the local water treatment plant.

Early in its construction, the natatorium’s opening was pushed back by several months  because of difficulty laying its foundation in a rocky area. Contractors are finishing work on smaller issues, like tiling, that will not affect the city’s water services.

Higgins said the MSA treats 1.5 million gallons of water a day to distribute between its two customers. One customer is the city of Lexington and the other is the Public Service Authority, which serves the county.

Lexington Public Works Director Mike Kennedy said the city handles the water for the natatorium.

He said the city filled and drained the pool as a test last fall without any problems, and that there were no complaints when it was refilled in January.

“We have sufficient capacity in our system, and the university’s facility people have coordinated big dates, like those for filling and draining, with us in advance,” he said.

W&L Capital Projects Director Tom Kalasky said contractors considered the burden and expense of draining and filling the pool in its design. The natatorium has the latest filtration and water-chemistry technology to extend the amount of time between cleanings.

Work on the natatorium continues

Washington and Lee Associate Athletics Director Elizabeth Igo LeRose said the early stages of the natatorium’s construction were the most challenging.

“During construction, you know, we hit rock where we weren’t expecting it,” LeRose said. And then, she added, “we hit dirt when we were expecting rock.”

LeRose said the natatorium was expected to be an 18-month project from March 2015 to November 2016. She said a variety of construction setbacks have delayed the natatorium’s opening, but she expects it to open sometime this spring.

So far, the natatorium has been used only by the eight women who qualified for the 2017 Division III NCAA Championship. It is not yet open to the public, students or faculty.

Washington and Lee swimmer Cassidy Fuller, a junior from Moraga, Calif., trained in the natatorium before leaving for the championship.

“The first day we were swimming there, it seemed really nice,” she said. “And then the next day we were there, we were kind of looking at it more and we were like, ‘Oh, the tile on the side is really wavy’ or just noticing a lot of things that were wrong.”

Fuller said workers were in the natatorium almost every day they were training.

Kalasky said the natatorium is closed to address construction issues including the pool deck tiling and crooked starting blocks.

He said contractors are working on a list of items to get the pool ready for opening. Main Line Commercial Pools, Inc., was a major subcontractor that will continue to do work on the natatorium.

“Each subcontractor is responsible for the satisfactory resolution of those punch-list items,” Kalasky said. “Anything associated with the pool, filtration, anything, that is Main Line’s responsibility to address that. That’s their contractual obligation that’s at no additional expense to Washington and Lee.”

Kalasky at first thought the pool floor tiling was going to be a big setback for the natatorium. He said he knew people had been concerned that the pool would need to be drained.

“Initially, when we were standing above, looking through seven or 10 feet of water. We thought, ‘There are issues down there,’” he said. “That was always a possibility, that we would have to drain the pool to address those areas.”

He said contractors dove into the pool to examine to the tile, and they decided that they could fix the problems without draining the water.

Kalasky said what’s left will be mostly cosmetic. He did not predict when the natatorium would officially open.