Aquatics: Graceful Aging

Pittsburgh Field Club in Fox Chapel, Pa.

By Dawn Klingensmith

Chartered in 1882, the venerable Pittsburgh Field Club is all about aging gracefully. So, when its pool started to deteriorate, the club opted to "have a little work done," as they say, instead of tearing it out and rebuilding from scratch.

The club wants its pool and other amenities to leave a positive impression consistent with its overall image, described on its Web site as "gracious," "stately" and "elegant."

The Pittsburgh Field Club, a private country club founded by "gentlemen mostly of British heritage," has endured to be Western Pennsylvania's oldest sports club, though its focus changed over time from cricket to golf. Now located northeast of Pittsburgh in the suburb of Fox Chapel, the club features an 18-hole golf course dating to 1914, when Alexander H. Findlay, aka "the father of American golf," designed the original layout. Since then, several other course architects have had a hand in shaping its design.

The Field Club (as Pittsburghers call it) hosted the 1937 PGA Championship as well as the 1958 Western Open.

Other amenities include a skeet range, tennis courts, a fishing lake, a driving range and a full-service restaurant, as well as an L-shaped lap pool with a diving well and a separate kids' wading pool.

"While golf may be the dominant club activity, social and family aspects have been equally important ever since (the club's) inception," according to Field Club's Web site.

The pool area provides the setting for many of the social and family activities. However, the pool was originally built in 1966, and its age was showing.

The pool's facelift was performed by the Indianapolis-based aquatic construction and renovation firm RenoSys Corp. The "before" image included "an old concrete pool, old filtration and deck equipment, old concrete gutter and a typical baby pool," said sales manager Michael Comstock.

"This is a high-end country club. Aesthetically, it was looking bad," he added.

Looks weren't the only concern, though. The pool's shell had cracked and was losing water. The plumbing was going bad, and the systems were underperforming as a result.

When cracks and leaks occur, the patch-and-paint solution only works for so long, Comstock explained. Costs associated with water, chemical and heat loss begin to add up.

Using the existing pool shell and pump room, "We kept the same look and layout but we spruced it up," Comstock said.

The company "does everything from just resurfacing to just gutters," he added, "but this was a complete renovation."

RenoSys performed a major upgrade using a full range of its product systems, and reusing 90 percent of the pool's existing infrastructure. Had the club replaced the pool entirely, the project might have cost as much as $1.5 million. Installing an envelope of PVC inside the old pool shell, along with other renovations and upgrades, cost less than $400,000 and freed up cash for other projects.

Upgrades included new plumbing runs to the large pools and the wading pool, new main drains, a new stainless steel gutter, and all new deck and safety equipment. The project's centerpiece is the new PVC pool shell membrane, which gives the pool its "brand new" look.

PVC liners, or membranes, are compatible with any type of shell including concrete, plaster, fiberglass, aluminum and steel. A liner does away with leaks as well as the need to paint, plaster, caulk or sandblast the old shell. The liner is completely suspended inside the old shell and does not depend on a bond with the old pool; hence, expansion and contraction in freeze-thaw cycles is not a problem. PVC's nonporous surface makes it difficult for algae to adhere.

Racing lines can be constructed of PVC membrane in a contrasting color and adhered to the PVC surface.

The Field Club opted to turn the wading pool into a zero-depth entry pool. After "shallowing" and re-plumbing the existing pool, a slip-resistant, textured PVC pool shell was installed for the interior surface. The finishing touches were spray features that add play value and visual interest.

The wading pool measures about 25 feet by 50 feet, with a shape suggestive of a small island. A spray feature Comstock described as a "mushroom" calls to mind a palm tree. The overall impression is of a tropical piece of paradise you wouldn't mind being marooned on.

The lap area of the large pool is 42 feet by 100 feet, and the dive well is 40 feet by 42 feet. The renovation is expected to extend the pool's life span by at least 25 years.


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