Pool searching for big fish
Aquatic center looks to attract elite meets to its outdoor pool
Mt. Hood Community College is ready to jump into the deep end by improving its Aquatics Center in hopes of attracting some of the nation's elite swimmers to Gresham.
The improvements to the 50-yard outdoor pool are designed to extend its operation from summer-only hours to a year-around program. The most notable change will be increased depth with plans to raise the surrounding deck area several feet. The shallow end will become 6 feet, while the deep end will extend to 16 feet.
The change helps meet USA Swimming regulations for diving and also allows for faster water. Another noticeable improvement will be a cover over the water to allow swimming throughout the year.
The pool has already arranged to host several large meets in the coming years (see box), starting with the Speedo Senior Sectionals next summer.
'The fact that we're filling events before the project is completed shows that people want to come to this venue,' Aquatics' Director Brandon Drawz said.
Other work includes repairing the pool gutters, various energy upgrades and a vinyl liner for the bottom of the pool, which will result in eight-wide swimming lanes instead of the nine used in the past.
The project is expected to cost about $1.4 million with funds coming from the Mt. Hood facility reserve fund. The goal is to make the swim complex profitable to the point that it doesn't require school funds in the future.
'My business plan shows how much money we will save in the long run,' Drawz said. 'With our profits, we would be able to pay back the money we take out of the fund within five years.'
He is also hopeful of bringing in a regular schedule of elite events that includes the U.S. National Championships and making Gresham a stop of the Grand Prix circuit - the top-level tour for USA Swimming.
'The community has a lot of gain from this,' Mt. Hood Swim Team coach Bud Taylor said. 'Attracting those big meets is going to have a huge economic impact.'
The center is already designed for large crowds with seating for 3,000 spectators around the pool deck.
'We're getting back to where we should have been in the first place,' Drawz said. 'The swim center can be a real force in Gresham, and it will be great to expose kids to these swimming heroes.'