After 25 years, OCCC’s Aquatic Center is closing this fall.
In an email sent Wednesday, April 15, President Paul Sechrist said the pool area will close after Labor Day weekend, Sept. 7. He said the Aquatic Center, originally built for summer Olympic Games in 1989, is nearing its “functional and physical obsolesce.”
The pool costs $280,000 annually to maintain and needs $6 million in repairs and upgrades, which the college doesn’t have to spend.
“Without this significant investment, it is only a matter of time before the aging infrastructure experiences a catastrophic system/mechanical failure,” Sechrist said.
“This scenario would require our partners with scheduled activities in the Aquatic Center to either cancel the activity or scramble to find another venue.”
Sechrist said future plans for the Aquatic Center space have not yet been decided.
Community Development Vice President Steven Bloomberg said he doesn’t know what will become of the area, but said it will be something that serves students directly.
According to a Pioneer story on June 20, 2014, OCCC hired the local architecture firm Crafton Tull to look into what it would take to upgrade the center. The report was released on Feb. 22, 2013. (See “Aquatic Center in need of upgrade.”)
Sechrist said the decision wasn’t an easy one.
“I assure you this decision was made following a careful review and with the full understanding of the significant contribution the Center has made to the College and Oklahoma City since it was built in 1989.”
For more information on the Aquatic Center, visit http://www.occc.edu/rf/aquatic.html.
The full text of Sechrist’s email is below:
“I have approved a recommendation to suspend operations of the OCCC Aquatic Center following the Labor Day Weekend of this year. I assure you this decision was made following a careful review and with the full understanding of the significant contribution the Center has made to the College and Oklahoma City since it was built in 1989.
The rationale for the decision is as follows:
• A highly respected and experienced consulting firm concluded that the Aquatic Center at OCCC, which is over 25 years old, is nearing “functional and physical obsolesce.” In order for OCCC to continue operations, the facility requires an investment of over $6 million in needed repairs, upgrades, and replacement of equipment and systems.
• Without this significant investment, it is only a matter of time before the aging infrastructure experiences a catastrophic system/mechanical failure. OCCC does not have the funds needed to recover from a major system/mechanical failure, forcing the closure of the facility. This scenario would require our partners with scheduled activities in the Aquatic Center to either cancel the activity or scramble to find another venue.
• The consultant also concluded that even with a significant investment in the infrastructure and mechanical systems, the Aquatic Center “does not have the ability to be a national caliber, state-of-the-art, long-course venue.” This conclusion is based on changed water depth requirements and wall inlet system differences that are now required for national/international competitive venues. In addition, the materials and finishes used at the Aquatic Center at OCCC are not consistent with newer, national/international level, long-course aquatic venues. Even with a significant investment in the current facility, the consultant concluded that the OCCC Aquatic Center would at best be a good training venue.
• The costs to operate the Aquatic Center are an on-going concern. Although OCCC does charge for use of the Aquatic Center, the direct costs to operate the center far exceed the revenue resulting in an average annual operating loss of $280,000.
As a state-funded college, OCCC faces continued financial challenges to meet the increasing mandatory cost increases necessary to serve our college students. The operational financial losses of the Aquatic Center, coupled with the looming requirement to devote millions of dollars in the infrastructure and mechanical systems to maintain a training venue that is not core to the mission of the college, has in many ways, forced this decision.
There is no doubt that the Aquatic Center has played a significant role in the history of OCCC and Oklahoma City. For over 25 years, this center has hosted numerous swim teams, diving clubs, state events, and national tournaments. However, the present day functional, operational, financial, and mission realities are overwhelming and compelling, resulting in the decision to close the Aquatic Center.
The future plans for the Aquatic Center space have not yet been determined. The space is contiguous to the existing Wellness Center, Social Sciences Division, College/Student Union, and outdoor space that the College’s Master Site Plan has as a future site for other sports venues (baseball diamond, volleyball courts, and running track). Therefore, the Aquatic Center space will be evaluated and eventually repurposed for programs and services that take into consideration its location and that align with the College’s strategic plans, the Master Site Plan, and the needs of our students and the community.”
Look for more information and updates in the Pioneer.
For more information about the communities response to the OCCC Aquatic Center closure announcement, visit http://pioneer.occc.edu/index.php/news/1-latest-news/4375-swim-community-opposes-aquatic-center-closing