The Katherine Moran Coleman Center opens to the public today, but the water sports teams have already made a splash in what is now the fastest aquatic center in the Ivy League and in the Northeast.
Since the beginning of April, the men and women’s water polo, swimming and diving teams have tested the waters in the state-of-the-art million-gallon, 56-meter long and nine-meter deep pool.
But what makes a pool fast? Men’s and women’s swimming head coach Peter Brown said a number of factors in the pool’s design influence the flow of water and waves and contribute to swimmers’ abilities to reach maximum speeds.
“Fast pools have specific characteristics, and if you don’t have those, you’re going to have a slow pool,” Peter Brown said.
The first quality is the pool’s depth. In general, “the deeper the water, the better,” Peter Brown said. Men’s swimming captain James Hunter ’12 said the nine feet of depth reduce swimmers’ waves from bouncing off the bottom of the pool, which reduces turbulence in the water.
Peter Brown said the way in which water flows into the pool is crucial for swimmers. In the new pool, the water will enter the pool in a way that does not create resistance that slows down athletes.
“You don’t want (water) coming into the sides of the pool – you want it coming in from the bottom,” Peter Brown said. “If it comes in from the sides, it creates jets, it creates streams, it creates currents you don’t want to have.”
The pool also has a special gutter system in place that allows water to flow over the edge of the pool, instead of bouncing back off the wall and creating waves and currents.
“How the water meets the edge of the pool is very important,” Peter Brown said. “When water comes to the edge of the pool, it just washes over the side and it doesn’t bounce back into the pool.”
The pool’s two moveable bulkheads mean that during collegiate races, competitors will not be swimming from “concrete to concrete,” Peter Brown said. By swimming between the two bulkheads, the currents created by swimming in both directions will not be as harsh when swimmers make their turns. The water washes out through the bulkheads instead of entering back into the racecourse, Peter Brown said.
While the speed of the pool has swimmers excited, this quality has less of an impact on the game for water polo. While in swimming the competitors are racing the clock, all players in a water polo game compete on a level playing field.
“There’s no timing in our game,” men’s and women’s water polo Head Coach Felix Mercado said. “So there’s no influence at all.”
Men’s water polo captain Toby Espinosa ’12 said for water polo, the quality and convenience of the new facility, not the pool’s speed, will give Brown teams a competitive edge.
“How much faster it is – it’s not as big of a deal,” he said. “It’s that now every single guy wants to go to the pool, get in the facility and practice. Because we finally have locker rooms. We have our own shower area. It’s a whole new atmosphere that I’ve never had at Brown before.”
The pool’s Olympic size will also benefit the squads in both practices and meets. Three teams will be able to use the facility simultaneously, relieving the coaches of scheduling nightmares often encountered in the temporary Aquatics Bubble. The bulkheads allow for configuration of any course – for 25-meter lanes, 50-meter lanes or a water polo field – and will also allow for water polo games and swimming lanes to be positioned in the middle of the pool. The center positioning, combined with the ample first and second floor viewing galleries, will create an excellent spectator experience.
Espinosa said the pool’s spectator-friendliness has the teams excited for their competitions to again become fun social events for the University community.
“Water polo games used to be the craziest games on Brown’s campus,” Espinosa said. “They were the most fun – people would come and watch and get rowdy. With this new facility, it’s really going to pick up.”
But for Peter Brown, the pool’s speed is one of the most exciting qualities of the new facility – not just because of the performance of the swimmers, but because of its potential to put Brown on the map.
“If people know you have a fast pool, they want to swim in it,” he said. “It gives you a nice reputation. If you go across the country, you know where the fast pools are. You can have a beautiful pool, but if you have a fast one, it makes it extra special.”
– With additional reporting by Ethan McCoy and Sam Rubinroit