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Sparks Pool reopening this week, frigid temperatures fixed

Mason Williams

Sports Writer

Photo by Skeet Starr

If you’ve taken a recreational dip into the Sparks Athletic Complex pool recently or know anyone on the Swim Team, you’ve likely encountered the frigid pool temperature that has been terrorizing swimmers as of late.

For the entirety of the fall semester, the Sparks Pool has suffered from a heating problem, lacking any hot water to keep its temperature up. The low temperatures have made swimming for long periods unhealthy and severely limited the time swimmers can spend in the pool. The restrictions are especially relevant for the Willamette University Swim Team, who depend on the pool for their practices and need to use it for long periods of time.

The issues with the Sparks Pool culminated in its temporary closure on Oct. 4 due to construction. The closure and lack of heating have created complications for the swimming team's practice schedule, which is problematic considering that the swim team’s season has just begun, with the first meet being hosted on Oct. 21.

“It was difficult,” said Assistant Swim Coach Sydney Kanne in an interview. “We weren’t able to do what we planned to [beginning] from the start of the season.” Kanne spoke about the many adaptations the swim team had to make in order to stay in shape while also minimizing their time in the pool. The Swim Team organized more practices on dry land and in the weight room, shifting focus from conditioning to strength training. Swimmers also attended more practices in the morning and had to practice off-site for an entire week.

Kanne is proud of how the team adapted to their situation and believes that they’re stronger for it. “[The strategy] was kind of adapt, change our game plan and ultimately move forward to do better at conference.” She noted that their extra time in strength training has had benefits as well. “They’re a lot stronger than they’ve ever been.”

The root causes for the heating issues are linked to an ongoing process of renovating the current layout of boilers on campus. While the school previously operated on two lone boilers, each building is currently slated to receive its own. Over the summer, three of the buildings on campus were refitted with their own boilers, the Sparks Athletics Complex being one of them. Side effects of this construction have led to the Sparks Center losing a functioning boiler and the pool experiencing such steep temperature drops. Other buildings such as the University Apartments experienced similar issues earlier in the semester.

The construction has since been completed, and the Sparks Pool is scheduled to resume its public hours this week now that heating is back to normal. It is not anticipated that there will be another loss of hot water.

Swim took to the water on Oct. 21, where the women defeated Southwestern Oregon Community College (133-106), while the men lost (74-146). They will head to Portland next for NWC relays and sprints. The Sparks Pool will see action again in early November when the Bearcats host the Whits.

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