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Bequest puts pool back on fast track

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Correction appended.

Construction on a new aquatics center may begin as early as this summer, after a large bequest breathed fresh life into a project that appeared likely to be shelved by the economic downturn.

Approval for designs to proceed on the project came this weekend, as the Corporation officially accepted $14.75 million from the estate of Raymond Moran ’41 in the name of his late sister.

That amount is enough to fund more than half the project, according to Ronald Vanden Dorpel MA’71, senior vice president for University advancement. Under Brown’s current guidelines, final approval for the project can come once the Moran funds are in hand and gifts have been secured for the remainder of the approximately $25 million project.

“We’re extremely fortunate to have received the donation,” Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration Beppie Huidekoper said. The gift, she added, seems almost like it “came from the heavens.”

Plans to go ahead with a new pool represent an abrupt turnaround for a project that, as recently as last week, administrators had said was indefinitely on hold.

The final stamp of approval for construction to begin can only come once funding has been secured for the entire cost of a project and at least half the cash to pay for it is in University coffers. But the bequest – well over the required 50 percent of the center’s projected $25 million cost – should be available to the University by June, Huidekoper said, and the University “is now close to having the full amount pledged.”

Though a precise date for breaking ground on the project has not been set, Huidekoper said, the Corporation this weekend authorized the University to select an architect and proceed with final planning for the project. The design process would then begin “as soon as possible,” she said.

Administrators declined to project a completion date for the project. But that day may be substantially sooner than recently seemed plausible thanks to the gift from Moran, who died earlier this year.

The executor of Moran’s estate chose to bequeath the money to name the pool as a memorial to Moran’s late sister, Vanden Dorpel said. Though Moran was not on the swim team while at Brown, he said, he was a “daily swimmer.”

The details of the bequest are still being managed by the donor’s trust, Huidekoper said.

The exact location of the new pool, which Huidekoper said the architect will help determine, is still uncertain, but it will be in the Erickson Athletic Complex.

The aquatics center is part of a larger plan for revamping the athletic complex that also includes building a new fitness center, but that project did not receive approval for construction at this weekend’s meeting of the Corporation..

“We have to raise the money first,” Huidekoper said. “I hope that will be raised soon.”

The planned aquatics center will succeed the University’s last permanent natatorium, the Smith Swim Center, which closed suddenly in January 2007 after structural deficiencies were discovered in its roof supports.

Since January 2008, Brown’s swimming and diving and water polo teams have practiced in a $3.8 million temporary pool behind the Olney-Margolies Athletic Center. They have been forced to compete off-campus, however, and a new, permanent facility would allow aquatics competition to return to College Hill. In addition to a 56-meter pool, included on Brown’s wish list for a new facility is seating for up to 800 spectators, The Herald reported last year.

“We’re definitely really excited about it,” said Kent Holland ’10, incoming captain of the men’s water polo team. “The rest of the team is really psyched that it’s going to go through.”

An article in Monday’s Herald (“Bequest puts pool back on fast track,” Feb. 23) incorrectly attributed a quotation to incoming men’s water polo captain Ken Collins ’10. The incoming captain’s name is Kent Holland ’10.

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