A meeting to decide the fate of Missouri Western State University's pool was filled with emotion Thursday.
About 60 people attended the forum on campus. A handful asked questions and expressed outrage over the current condition of the Looney Pool Complex.
The 43-year-old pool and its usage are both on the decline. University data for an 11-month period showed the pool averages seven people per day.
There are two options: close the pool or find a benefactor to revamp the facility.
“This is a difficult decision,” said Shana Meyer, vice president for student affairs.
She said the university is facing a number of challenges, including retrofitting parts, getting parts, maintenance, corrosion and staffing.
Western spends $90,000 a year to operate the pool. And there are needs beyond the pool itself, including the roof and locker rooms. Because the pool demands a lot of chemicals and needs to remain at a steady 83 to 85 degrees, the corrosion of equipment and facilities is constant.
“We lose 5 gallons of water every 45 seconds,” she said. “The other challenge is staffing.”
It costs $230 to become a certified lifeguard, and Ms. Meyer said the interest from students isn’t high.
If the pool is closed, the space could potentially become a multi-use recreational facility.
“Students have expressed an interest in more court space, fitness space,” Ms. Meyer said.
During the winter months, time on the basketball courts is limited due to team practices. Providing more opportunities for students is ultimately the goal, and the pool is not providing a great experience, she said.
The cost to renovate the Looney Pool Complex into a gym of sorts would cost around $150,000. According to a fact sheet handed out at the forum, the space would likely open in the fall of 2014.
The second option, a complete overhaul, would cost at least $600,000.
Phil Mullins feels the decision has already been made. The retired professor, and regular user of the pool, expressed frustration during the forum, describing the event as nothing more than a dog and pony show.
“The pool hasn’t been maintained,” Mr. Mullins said. “It is a resource that isn’t being treated as such. There is no maintenance and no interest in maintenance.”
The majority of audience members concurred. A current physical education instructor at Western said she has even eliminated classes that are normally taught in the pool because of its current state.
Others went on to express their concerns over a lack of marketing efforts by the university.
Several forum attendees are involved in local swimming clubs. Each spoke passionately about a lack of facilities to foster the growing talent in the area.
Ms. Meyer made clear that the university must tread lightly as far as marketing and do what is in the best interest of students and not compete for business.
“We are one of the lowest state-funded schools,” Ms. Meyer said. “We can barely keep out heads above water as it is. No pun intended.”
To date, the pool generates $11,000 in revenue from camps and conferences. And no one is charged with marketing the facility.
A student pointed out that a majority of her peers were unaware the school even had a pool. Ms. Meyer admitted the Looney Pool Complex was taken off the list of facilities toured by incoming students.
Beside the open forum, Western officials plan to send letters to those currently using the pool to get feedback, which will then be taken to the school’s board in June.