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Post & Courier (Charleston, SC)

 

By this time next year, swimmers at Charleston's Martin Luther King Jr. pool could be doing laps beneath a permanent roof rather than the temporary bubble that's stretched over the outdoor pool every winter. 

By this time next year, swimmers at Charleston's Martin Luther King Jr. pool could be doing laps beneath a permanent roof rather than the temporary bubble that's stretched over the outdoor pool every winter.

Plans are underway to enclose the East Side municipal facility by the end of this year, an upgrade that many say will help foster more year-round swimming activity.

"When you see the big bubble go up, nobody wants to go in there," Shannon O'Brien, director of Lowcountry Aquatic Program Swimming, said.

The organization relies on public pools such as the MLK facility to teach local children how to swim.

"I think it will promote possibly more programming and folks coming to swim," O'Brien said.

The new structure also will make it a lot easier to control the water temperature and the overall indoor environment, said Stella Fruit, the city's superintendent of recreation services.

Currently, fog builds up inside the bubble when it's very cold outside. That fog is difficult to clear, she said.

Plus, the new enclosure would mean the East Side pool wouldn't have to close during the summer if there's a heavy rain.

That doesn't mean it will be totally shut off from the elements. The city's design will have sliding roof panels and adjustable sides to let in sunlight during warmer months, said Jason Kronsberg, director of the city's Parks and Capital Projects Department.

The $2.8 million project involves replacing the facility's electrical system and renovating the locker rooms and bathrooms, which will bring in air conditioning for the first time.

The work is included in the city's $13.2 million contract with Johnson Controls to update municipal facilities with energy-efficient water and electrical systems.

The firm is holding three public meetings on Feb. 9 to reveal architectural renderings and a construction timeline for the project.

Most likely, the pool will have to close from August to December while the work is completed. Fruit said that's the best possible time frame because the competitive swimming season winds down in late July.

Ryan Agostinelli said he and his son, Matthew, use the MLK pool practically every day because it's one of the only 50-meter pools in the region that can accommodate year-round competitive swimming.

He said the experience in the winter isn't always top-notch, though. During the recent cold snap, for instance, a heating problem at the pool meant that swimmers like Matthew had to practice in frigid water.

"My son's kind of hardcore, so he went ahead and practiced anyway," Agostinelli said. "I hope with the upgrades, they'll be able to have a more stable environment."

Agostinelli added his son, a high school senior, is attending Southern Illinois University next year and will join its swim team - an opportunity that wouldn't have been possible without the MLK pool.

"If it wasn't for his participation at the MLK pool specifically, then he wouldn't be where he is now," he said.

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January 23, 2018
 
 
 

 

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