Pierce College Fort Steilacoom in Lakewood will not seek to re-open its pool, instead pursuing an option to renovate the facility into a health and wellness education center.
The college has been exploring options to find annual operating and maintenance funds needed to re-open the pool. That search, which included talks with a local school district, city and Pierce County, has been unsuccessful. A consultant estimated it would require more than $250,000 a year to continue to operate and maintain the pool, which has been closed since it was damaged by an earthquake in February 2001.
A proposal to renovate the building to include classrooms, expanded fitness facilities and locker rooms, an exercise floor and faculty offices was developed by a collegewide committee earlier this year. That proposal appears high on a statewide community and technical college priority list. It offers the opportunity to serve more students at less taxpayer expense, and, after considerable study, college officials have decided to pursue this option instead of continuing to search for funds to re-open the pool.
“We recognize the pool has been a beloved resource to its dedicated users,” said Michele Johnson, president of Pierce College Fort Steilacoom. “Our tough economic times force us into difficult choices. Our primary mission is access to education, and we have to use what resources we have to serve as many people as we can. A health and wellness education center enables us to do that.”
The renovation will add desperately needed classroom space, as well as create a place to serve high-demand exercise classes for hundreds of students and community members. During its last full evaluation of Pierce College, the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities cited the lack of facilities for health sciences, wellness and physical education programs, and encouraged the college to take action. The renovation project addresses this concern.
About 75 percent of the classes offered in Pierce Colleges pool have been relocated to other pools in the Lakewood community.
In the process of evaluating the building for earthquake damage two years ago (the pool building sustained about $50,000 in damage to its ceiling), an inspector identified an additional $800,000 of repairs that would need to be made within the next 10 years.
This level of repair is natural for older indoor pools because moisture and chemicals cause significant deterioration of structures and equipment. Approximately 10 years ago, $1 million was invested to make similar repairs. Once made, these repairs need to be made again and again.
A financial analysis of the pool showed the facility operated at an annual loss of approximately $140,000. These funds were drawn from operating monies designed to provide classes and support programs for students. When open, the pool accounted for nearly one quarter of college energy costs, although it contained only about six percent of the total square footage of the college. These figures were derived before energy costs increased dramatically two years ago.
When portable buildings are removed from the campus in the next two years, it will eliminate space used to hold the colleges most popular exercise classes. The college recently opened a new building that is the first step to eliminating its aging cluster of portable buildings. The new building contains much-needed computer labs, classrooms and faculty office space to meet demand of increasing enrollments.
Construction costs for the renovation are estimated at $3.5 million. That compares to the potential cost simply to operate and maintain the pool for 12 to 15 years. The building is expected to have a life span of at least 30 years.
“With an estimated $2 billion deficit in our states budget and our enrollments at all-time highs, we have to make the most cost-effective use of the limited resources we have to serve students,” Johnson said. “At this point, even if we could find the money to operate the pool, we must continue to pursue the renovation option.”
Pierce College Fort Steilacoom health and wellness center fact sheet
Pierce College Fort Steilacoom will end its search for the $250,000 to $300,000 of annual operation and maintenance funds needed to re-open its pool, and instead seek resources to renovate the pool facility into a multi-purpose health and wellness education center. The proposed center will include classrooms, exercise space, locker rooms, faculty offices and an expanded weight and fitness room. This decision was made because:
— A health and wellness education center will serve more students at a lesser cost than the pool facility.
— The pool was built in 1973 when construction and mechanical technology was inefficient by todays standards.
* The pool requires extraordinary amounts of energy to operate and requires extensive regular maintenance.
* It accounted for about one quarter of the energy costs at Pierce College Fort Steilacoom although it had only six percent of the colleges space.
* It requires extensive on-going repair because the pool environment causes the building and equipment to deteriorate rapidly.
— The renovation will create much-need classroom space for physical education, health and first aid classes and general instruction. It will provide adequate facilities for popular continuing education classes including dance, aerobics, yoga, Tai Chi, and weight training. It will support other programs with fitness requirements, such as the corrections officer training program and athletics.
— The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities cited the lack of facilities for the colleges health sciences, wellness and physical education programs, encouraging the college to do something about it. This renovation addresses this concern.
— The construction costs of the renovation project is equal to the operation and maintenance costs of the pool for 12 to 15 years. The renovated health and wellness education center is expected to have a life span of at least 30 years.
— A fiscal analysis of the pool showed it operated at a loss of about $140,000 per year. This money was diverted from programs to provide classes and support programs for students. These figures were developed prior to dramatic increases in energy costs that have occurred in the last two years.
— About 75 percent of the Pierce College pools classes have been absorbed in the capacity of other Lakewood area swimming pools.
For more information, contact Dale Stowell, (253) 964-6780 or at email@example.com.