Aquatics Center: varsity and recreational swimmers buoyant over world-class facilities
By Brian Fitzgerald
To say that the opening of the new Aquatics Center is making a big splash with BU’s men’s and women’s varsity swim teams would be quite an understatement. The ripples are being felt across campus, because recreational swimming at BU is also getting a huge boost.
“The impact on our programs is incredible,” says aquatics director Diane Brown. “With a recreational pool and larger competition pool, we have many more opportunities.”
From water polo to synchronized swimming to aqua aerobics to scuba diving classes — participants in all water sports will benefit from the Aquatics Center. For Brown, it means taking her programs from a 6-lane pool at the Case Physical Education Center and bringing them to a 10-lane competition pool and a 3-lane recreational pool, not to mention the bonus of a 15-person hot tub and a moving “lazy river,” where jogging against the current provides a low-impact workout.
In the past, because two daily varsity swim practices take as long as four hours, the Case pool was off limits to the rest of the student population for a significant chunk of the day — not to mention additional morning workouts for the athletes and diving practices from 6 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. “Now, with the additional facilities,” says Brown, “we’ll be able to offer recreational lap swimming and other programs during these practices.”
Beginning swimming classes have traditionally been popular at BU. “But they fill up quickly, and we’ve always had a waiting list for evening classes,” she says. “I’m looking forward to being able to serve more people. Children’s programs are definitely going to expand.”
“This pool is amazing,” says Katie David (SMG’07) during a stroke improvement class. “The old pool, where there were three of us in a lane during class, doesn’t compare.” Classmate Eric Santamaria (GSM’05) finds the lighting much brighter than in the old pool. “The lanes here are wider,” he says. “Everybody has enough space.”
Brown explains that in the competition pool, as in the Case pool, the water temperature is 80 degrees, which is appropriate for races and high-exertion activities, but can be a bit chilly for children and even instructors, who spend a lot of time on the deck and may have trouble staying warm after having been in the water. However, the recreational pool temperature is a balmy 86 degrees, and the zero-depth ramp leading into the water is child-friendly.
“The zero-depth ramp is also great for disabled people, and we have special ‘water wheelchairs’ in which people can go down the ramp into the warm water,” she says. “The properties of water are wonderful for therapy.” In fact, one aquatics department course, Aqua Therapy, can supplement a regular physical therapy routine for people with arthritis and orthopedic conditions.
The Wave Run, a popular cross-training course that provides a full-body cardiovascular workout, Brown points out, will now be augmented with a session in the 100-foot-long winding lazy river that flows at one end of the recreational pool. “Jogging for a half-hour against the current will definitely give you a good workout,” she says.
Recreational activities in the new pools include water volleyball, water basketball, and possibly in the future, intramural inner-tube water polo, a traditional BU favorite that hasn’t been offered in a few years. Brown also believes that the student interest in intramural swimming warrants holding more than the usual one meet a year.
The pools will also be a boon to the master’s swimming team, which consists of more than 100 members — many of them employees. “In the old pool, they could practice only Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday mornings for an hour,” she says. “Now they can practice five mornings a week, and we’ll be adding evening practices that are an hour and a half long.”
For more information on BU’s aquatics programs, visit: http://www.bu.edu/fitrec/programs/masterDesc.htm#Aquatics.
Varsity swimming: a dream comes true
Reagh Wetmore is retiring after 30 seasons of coaching the men’s and women’s swimming teams, and he’s ending his tenure on a high note. Before his full retirement in December, he will get to see his athletes compete in a long-awaited state-of-the-art pool.
Aside from having 10 lanes, compared to 6 in the old pool, the new pool has a bulkhead that separates the swimming and diving areas, so varsity divers are able to practice and compete while swimmers are in the competition pool — without ripples from their dives interfering with races.
“Also, the deck is 16 feet wide on both sides, compared to the old pool, which has 9 feet on one side and 7 on the other,” Wetmore says. Because men’s and women’s swim meets are held at the same time, four teams used to descend on the old pool for competitions. “That’s 80 to 100 athletes, and the seating capacity on the old deck is only about 150,” he says. “We barely had room for the swimmers’ parents.”
Wetmore recalls that when BU hosted the 1978 Greater Boston Championships, many athletes had to stand outside the pool area when they weren’t swimming. The new pool, however, has off-deck seating for 700 spectators. “It will make a huge difference,” he says.
In addition to modern offices and locker rooms, Wetmore points out, the Aquatics Center’s automated officiating equipment is high-tech. “It’s all up-to-date — the scoring display units that show the amount of laps swum, the speeds, and the times,” he says. He has one word to describe the old equipment: antique. “In the past, when the equipment malfunctioned, I couldn’t even go back to the companies that made it,” he says, “because they had gone out of business.”
The new pool “is changing the whole picture for varsity swimming,” says Wetmore. “I found it easier to recruit this year. At first, I could show high school athletes a sketch of what was being built, but now they’re looking at first-rate facilities.”