Award Winner - July/August 2003
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From Mud Pond to Modern Pool

Veteran's Memorial Park Pool
South Windsor, Conn.

Veteran's Memorial Pool had definitely seen better days. Much better.

As a town landmark for almost 70 years, the quintessential old-fashioned swimming hole was once upon a time a spring-fed mud pond, affectionately referred to by locals as "Spring Pond."


The pond, privately owned by a local family, was first opened to the public on July 4, 1940. Over the years, it was eventually sold to the town and evolved in several stages, including adding concrete walls, an asphalt bottom, and then a filtration system that was actually modeled after the polar bear tanks at the Bronx Zoo.

Back in the good old days, these were all fine improvements, but time naturally took its toll. Efforts to rehabilitate the aging facility in fact began in 1992 and experienced one failed referendum attempt before receiving town acceptance a decade later.

"The whole infrastructure was failing," says Ray Favreau, director of recreation. "The pool walls and floor were so brittle and cracked that we lost close to 50,000 gallons of water each day—that's approximately $6,400 worth of water per season."

Furthermore, it took 14 hours to completely recycle the 1.6 million gallons of water—meaning a single contamination incident could shut down the whole facility for a day (which happened up to 15 times a summer). Likewise, the pool did not meet the new state codes for municipal swim facilities nor did it comply with the federally mandated Americans with Disabilities Act. About two-thirds of the pool was a murky 12 feet deep and not really accessible to most patrons nor was it good for swim lessons and fitness programming, not to mention a challenge for the lifeguards.

Ask any regular patrons of the facility, Favreau says, and they'll be sure to have experienced the disappointment of a closed pool due to contamination, the daily nuisance of picking up chips of peeling paint, or the waiting in line to use the undersize restrooms (the whole facility had only four outdated toilets).

"We knew we were on borrowed time; band-aid fixes were routine, getting expensive and becoming ineffective," Favreau says. "The word got out that it was no longer fun to go there."

The kiss of death for any recreation facility.

Luckily, voters saved the suffering pool by floating a $3.1 million bond referendum. An aggressive reconstruction schedule was set, and the day after the close of the summer season, the bulldozers began working. Eight months later the new facility was open for business.

"The response was wonderful; our pass sales went through the roof," Favreau says. The new pool had 55,000 visits its inaugural season, up from a tepid 17,000 the previous summer. "We tripled our attendance in our first year."

The facility averages about 500 to 600 people per day, with a maximum of 1,500 at any one time. It is also finally suitable for swim lessons, water fitness classes and swim competitions.

Interestingly, the completely revamped pool facility was accomplished for about two-thirds of the cost a new facility created from scratch. Using the same footprint and basic framework as the old 46,000-square-foot swimming hole, there are now actually three separate bodies of water, totaling almost one acre, each with its own operating system: a family leisure pool with 100-foot, zero-depth beach entry; a short-course, 25-yard, eight-lane competition pool; and a long-course, 50-meter, eight-lane pool with two diving boards and a free-form open swim area and beach entry.

The segregated tanks can be filtered and re-circulated independently and at a faster rate (between two and eight hours), which means should a contamination occur, only the infected tank would be temporarily closed for disinfecting—leaving the remaining two tanks open for use. This is a much more customer-friendly situation and in full compliance with state regulations.

"It works marvelously," Favreau says. "We never really turn people away now."

Other nagging problems were solved with the new design. Individuals with disabilities now have total access to the park with a new entrance ramp, decking around the entire perimeter of the pool, true zero-depth entry to the water off the deck, and restrooms that are wheelchair accessible.

Speaking of restrooms, more fixtures were added at the renovated main bathhouse pavilion and at a brand-new building featuring family-style restrooms located on the opposite side of the park.

"We see in the future even more amenities," Favreau says, such as sand volleyball, a splash play area and a water slide. "It won't happen tomorrow but gradually."

Still, a fabulous foundation has been set for the park, preserving it as a landmark for years to come.

"Great integration of leisure, park and competition. A special environment without gimmicks. Working with, not against, the grain exposed opportunities to cost-effectively create an excellent family environment. It just makes sense. Fresh and new, yet timeless.

An A+."

—Paul Brailsford

"Very inviting. Pool elements exceptionally positioned. Nice, clean pool details. Great effort to make pool and park work together for variety of recreation."

—Philip Neeley

Submitted by: Bargmann, Hendrie + Archetype, Inc. in Boston

Size: Fenced-in pool area is a five-acre site; 1,064,400 gallons of water and a 33,000-square-foot pool surface area

Project cost: $3.1 million

Quick tour:

  • 152,000-gallon, 7,897-square-foot family leisure pool with 100-foot, zero-depth beach entry
  • 157,640-gallon, 4,435-square-foot short-course, 25-yard, eight-lane competition pool
  • 755,000-gallon, 20,510-square-foot long-course, 50-meter, eight-lane pool with two diving boards and a free-form open swim area and beach entry
  • 3,500-square-foot main bathhouse pavilion
  • 2,200-square-foot filter building and secondary bathhouse
  • 300-square-foot vending area
  • 16.5-acre surrounding park with picnic areas, grills and terraced lawn

Associated Firms

Structural engineers: DeStefano Associates

Mechanical/electrical engineers: Building Engineering Resources, Inc.

Civil engineers: Design Professionals, Inc.

Geotechnical design: Clarence Welti Associates

General contractor: Construction Services of New England

Chemical control systems: USFilter/Stranco Products

Filters and gutters: Neptune Benson Inc.

Handicapped equipment, ladders/grab bars, lane markers, starting blocks: Spectrum Aquatics

Sanitation systems: Arch Chemicals, Inc.

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