Last week, a video shot by an Albion swimmer circulated around Albion College. Only about four seconds long, it depicted the women’s swim locker room in the Dean Aquatics Center flooding. Water rained down from the ceiling tiles and fluorescent lights in a comedic torrent.
Head Swim Coach and Aquatics Director Robert Brownell said the swim team’s locker rooms have been known hosts to several leaks, but this was something entirely different.
“The video that surfaced of the water rushing down had more to do with a broken heater that triggered the fire suppression system,” Brownell said.
“It was a sprinkler issue. The sprinklers went off somewhere else where the heating components were, and all of that drained and managed to make its way to become rainfall out of the ceiling of the locker room.”
Though this event was a seemingly individual occurrence, it sheds a light on the problematic and aging swim locker rooms. The Dean Aquatic Center was built in 1977, and the locker rooms show their 46 years in both design and construction. Swimmer, Declan Tharp, a senior from Chesterton, said he is reminded of the aging locker rooms often.
“The lockers are really rusty, sometimes there’s even mold in them,” Tharp said. “There’s usually a couple showers that have pressure for the guys’ side, but maybe only like two or three out of like the eight that we have.”
The women’s locker room faces similar issues.
“You know when you get out of a pool, the deck and the locker rooms are relatively cool, so it’s nice to be able to have some hot showers when you get in,” Brownell said. “And that’s not there for them.”
During a walk-through of the swim team’s facilities, Brownell pointed out that the showers in the locker rooms are no longer up to modern standards, and that their model can no longer be built in compliance with code.
Brownell said he didn’t think the recurring issues were a problem with facilities’ ability to maintain the locker rooms, but rather an issue of the space being outdated in general.
However, what Brownell sees as the greatest issue is the problem of privacy.
Both swim teams’ locker rooms are open to students and the public during open swim hours. Though Brownell deeply values the pool as a resource to the community, it is difficult for the swim team to share so little space with others.
Brownell said the pool can be an educational tool for Albion residents, especially considering that drowning is the second highest cause of infant and child deaths in the US. The CDC states similar data on child mortality.
“I think it is important that we teach our kids how to swim in the community,” Brownell said.
Even so, the open nature of the locker rooms makes sharing difficult, and the problems with maintaining the space hurt the program’s image during recruitment. Compared to other swim facilities in the state and other sports facilities at Albion College, the swim locker room doesn’t match up.
“If we renovate the locker rooms we could maybe attract more talent because that is on the pitching side for our recruits,” Tharp said. “They don’t want to go to a program where the pool is not up to par, or locker rooms aren’t up to par.”
Nonetheless, Albion’s swim team is accustomed to working with the less-than-ideal situation. With several swimmers reaching their lifetime best, or at their in-season best times, Brownell believes the team is in a good place.
“We’ve had some of our best swimmers do very well,” Brownell said. Several swimmers have made it into the top 10 and 20 in the country, including Sage Gettings, Holland junior, in the fly, with the swim team leaving for the conference meet at Calvin University on Feb. 15.
Despite the team’s success, Tharp is tired of the swim locker rooms being pushed to the side of priorities for the college.
“It’s kind of a slap to the swim team’s face,” Tharp said.
With no current plans for renovations, the swim team will continue to seek success while sharing faulty shower heads, rusty, molding lockers and leaky ceilings.