Swimming pool closing as CUC construction ramps up
Later this month, Carnegie Mellon community members will start to feel the impact of work on the Jared L. Cohon University Center (CUC) addition beyond the sights and sounds of construction on Forbes Avenue.
First, the CUC pools and lockers rooms will close on March 23 as part of efforts to renovate the building’s fitness facilities.
The closures represent one of many community-wide changes taking effect over the coming months as the CUC addition begins to take shape. The pool and locker room renovations embody phase four in current project development, according to the Campus Design and Facilities Development website, following the entry and exit modifications to the East End Campus Garage started in August and December.
According to Director of Athletics Josh Centor, construction is expected to be completed in August. He anticipates that the renovations will improve the experience for both competitive athletes and recreational community members.
Timeline and Projects
The pool will close March 23 to coincide with qualified Carnegie Mellon swimmers going to the 2015 NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships. In the meantime, a number of changes will take place within the facility. The orientation of the Equipment Desk will change, workers will add a family changing area, and the location of laundry services will also shift.
Other renovations will address the needs of student athletes specifically. Enhancements will be made to the varsity locker rooms, and a spectator balcony will be built in the pool area. The HVAC system in the pool area will also be overhauled to meet air quality requirements.
According to Centor, the goal is to complete renovations by Orientation Week at the end of August, with the entire project ideally spanning “a little shy of five months.”
The push for renovation comes from a combination of competitive benchmarking and community needs, according to Centor. Comparable schools, such as the University of Chicago and Emory University, have spectator seating in their pools, while Carnegie Mellon currently does not.
Centor explained that a lack of spectator seating hampers community and family participation in sporting events. “It’s very difficult to have parents there with the competitive swimmers,” Centor said. “We feel this is an important [addition].”
Athletes are also strapped for space in the current facility. “They have to share lockers,” Centor said. “There’s no space.”
But the aim is to impact not only competitive athletes, but also community members. In addition to competitive events, the pool is also used for community swim lessons, recreational swim, club water polo, and intramural inner-tube water polo.
According to Assistant Director of Athletics for Instructional Programs and Recreation Sara Gauntner, on average, Carnegie Mellon’s fitness facilities see 900 to 1,000 ID swipes on a given day. Frequently visited spaces include the pool, fitness centers, GroupX classes, gymnasiums, and the tennis and racquetball courts.
The idea is to “hopefully maximize the experience of our patrons, which is first and foremost,” Centor said.
Alternative Community Spaces
While the closure is in effect, community members accustomed to using the CUC fitness facilities can expect to change their routines. But the athletics department has worked to make alternative spaces available so patrons can maintain their desired level of fitness.
“We understand there’s going to be a disruption in their pattern of behavior,” Centor said. “We’ve made accommodations to ease that burden as best we can.”
Starting March 23, the CUC check-in desk will move up to the landing. Meanwhile, GroupX classes will still run, and Wiegand Gymnasium and Skibo Gymnasium will remain open.
Centor also notes that as the weather improves, the demand for indoor exercise facilities may go down. “In April, it might not be such a big deal to finish your work over there and walk over [to Skibo Gymnasium] to shower,” Centor said. “In June, people can go outside and take a run or take a walk.”
However, these alternatives still leave patrons without access to a competitive-sized pool.
The department has reached out to local partners for support. According to Gauntner, sponsors include Chatham University, the Jewish Community Center in Squirrel Hill, Club One, LA Fitness in Bakery Square, Chris Anthony Fitness, X Shadyside, the Thelma Lovette YMCA, and Kingsley Association, with pool access available at all but Chris Anthony Fitness and X Shadyside. Some of these facilities will be accessible for free, while others may charge an entrance fee.
After Memorial Day, outdoor pools will open for the summer, presenting an opportunity for local outdoor swimming memberships at Carnegie Mellon partner facilities.
“We thought [the pool] was probably the most significant part of our shutdown,” Centor said. “We’re grateful that our local partners are helping us.”
According to Centor, the fitness-oriented renovations are closely tied with the vision of the CUC addition as a whole: providing an enhanced community space to improve the outside-classroom experience.
“We are making a wonderful investment in our fitness facilities with the CUC addition,” Centor said. “We’ll create a conducive environment for our students, staff, and faculty to come together and be well.”
Another result of the CUC expansion will be the addition of two more fitness studios, and one studio dedicated to spinning. Currently, the CUC only hosts one studio — a situation that proves restrictive when scheduling fitness classes, as only one class can take place at a time. The availability of multiple studios will allow the department to stagger class schedules, offering more classes at more convenient times for students, staff, and faculty.
Fitness is by no means the singular focus of the expansion. In particular, a large proportion of the new facility space will be dedicated to student performance. However, Centor said that every feature of the addition, fitness-oriented or not, is designed to serve the same community-wide goal.
“The studio theater goes hand in hand with the fitness center,” Centor said. “It’s a student focused project — or rather, it will dramatically impact student experience outside the classroom.”
A breakdown of project phasing, construction timelines, and other details on the CUC addition are available at the Campus Design and Facility Development website.
“We’ve been talking about things for a while, but now things are happening,” Centor said. “I just think it’s going to be so awesome.”