Parents urge U. to build temporary pool for aquatics programs

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Web Update posted May 8

Parents with ties to Brown’s aquatics program, including the primary donors to the Smith Swim Center’s recent renovation, have delivered messages of frustration and support to University officials following the announcement that the swim center will be closed indefinitely due to irreversible structural damage.

Among the communications sent to President Ruth Simmons and other administrators were e-mails from donors Ted Garcia P’08 P’10 and Jane Hoerig P’08 P’10 and Quay Hays P’10, a developer who proposed a detailed plan for a temporary pool facility. The Corporation will decide whether to construct a temporary pool facility at its meeting later this month.

Garcia and Hoerig, parents of swimmers Grant ’08 and Erin Garcia ’10, were the primary donors for the new locker rooms and squash courts, which opened just last year but will not be used due to the center’s indefinite closure. In an e-mail addressed to President Ruth Simmons, the couple urged the University to build a temporary pool rather than redirect the four aquatics teams to area pools for an undetermined period of time.

“As the major donors of the recently completed renovations of the locker room facilities, we had hoped for a resolution that would not require the demolition of the building and the waste of hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Garcia wrote in an e-mail to the University. “Having said this, Jane and I would like to focus on the ‘go forward’ position, the outcome, that will be discussed at the May Corporation meeting and in good faith share our thoughts.”

Garcia, former executive vice president of operations for Starbucks, wrote that he faced numerous situations “which required (him) to redirect tens of millions of dollars from ‘need to do’ projects to ‘must do projects’ in light of changing circumstances.”

“I feel very strongly that we should be building a temporary pool,” Garcia said.

Despite the “waste” of money, Garcia had only positive comments about the University and how it has handled the center’s sudden closure due the deteriorating timber support structure.

“This is not something that Brown chose to do when they accepted our donation. I give them a tremendous amount of credit,” Garcia told The Herald. Describing the situation as a “great opportunity,” he said his children’s athletic and academic experiences at the University have been “nothing but positive.” Garcia said he paid the final installment of his donation even after hearing of the center’s closing.

Garcia, who played football as an undergraduate at Princeton University, said he felt student-athletes would suffer academically if forced to commute, as they did this semester, to practice in local pools. Swimmers practice as often as twice a day during the season, he said, and a twice-daily commute would be physically and mentally tiring.

“My concern is not – and has never been – about the money,” Garcia said. “My concern is about the impact on the students and the aquatics teams.”

His daughter Erin agreed that a temporary facility would be the best solution.

“The school has been doing a good job of pursuing different avenues to fix this situation, but in the end, this is going to be a very hard decision for anyone to make,” she said. “But our team is strong enough that we’ll pull through this.”

Russell Carey ’91 MA’06, interim vice president for campus life and student services, said he and the University appreciate Garcia and Hoerig’s concern and support.

“They want what’s best for the Brown community, students and school included,” Carey said. “We’re doing everything we can to ensure a positive experience for students.”

Hays’ e-mail, sent to Director of Athletics Michael Goldberger, outlined a plan to construct a temporary pool by mid-September.

Managing partner of a California development firm, Hays proposed a plan to build the facility for $1.2 million excluding the cost of locker room facilities, bleachers and a timing system, which he claimed is much less than the University’s estimate.

“Operating this pool annually is estimated to cost less than operating Brown’s current swim facility, making (the) statement that ‘a temporary facility for a period of three years would cost in the range of $5.5 million – $6.5 million’ somewhat confusing,” Hays wrote.

Hays also wrote that the closure was unfair to hard-working athletes.

“These kids worked for years to attend and represent an Ivy League school in their sport – training, sacrificing, dreaming, daring and accomplishing what few other students have,” he wrote. “You actually do not understand our and our children’s frustration.”

Hays and his son Paris ’10 declined to comment for this article.

Goldberger said administrators have received Hays’ suggestions and will take a good look at his plan.

“It certainly will be explored very carefully,” Goldberger said.

Regarding the other points made in Hays’ e-mail, Goldberger said the University and parents are together in seeking what’s best for students.

“I’m a parent of a college student, I understand their concerns,” he said. “If we don’t have an on-campus solution, the impact this will have is clear.”

Neither Goldberger nor Carey would speculate on whether the University would construct a temporary facility, a decision which will be made by the Corporation later this month.

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