Feature Article - July/August 2004
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Top It Off

Enclosing a pool can increase program offerings and help draw new crowds

By Margaret Ahrweiler



OUT OF THE BUBBLE
AND INTO THE GLASS

For close to 20 years, the Milford/Orange YMCA in Milford, Conn., had been a bubble kind of place. Its outdoor pool—one of the few in the area—had been covered by an inflatable dome during cold-weather months. For this branch of the Central Connecticut Coast YMCA, the temporary dome gave members the best of both worlds. Members enjoyed being in the great outdoors in the summer, where they could enjoy the bucolic views of the Y's 25-acre wooded property during their leisure or competitive swimming.

But as their second 110-by-100-foot dome (the first lasted 10 years) approached the end of its life span, the YMCA's leadership began looking at other options, says Judy Jameson, executive director of the Milford/Orange YMCA.

"Bubbles only last eight to 10 years; we'd already had two, and it would cost about $100,000 for a new one, and it was very labor intensive to put up," she explains. "It was not financially feasible to continue."

The Milford/Orange Y also sought a more efficient, aesthetically pleasing alternative to the bubble, which "wasn't particularly aesthetically attractive, and it wasn't airtight, increasing heating costs," Jameson says.

A glass system seemed to be the way to go, but the size and shape of the pool had limited that possibility until recently. The large, Z-shaped pool (with a shallow area at one end, lap lanes in the center and a deep end at the other end) and its configuration right next to the main YMCA building posed a challenge for enclosure firms.

"They really had to put their configurations to the test," Jameson says. But with engineering advances, the enclosure firm was able to handle the 140-foot-long span needed to cover the pool properly, along with the 20-foot height to tie the enclosure into the existing building.

The new enclosure system features a retractable roof and open-wide sides to maintain an outdoor feel and tie the pool to the picnic area and playground nearby.

"It will still feel like outside to our members," Jameson says.