Written by: Patricia Menendez and Zoe Chin/ PantherNOW Staff
The Biscayne Bay Campus diving well is expected to be closed beginning in May and all the way through September because of necessary repairs, according to the Director of the BBC Wellness and Recreation Center, Elie Bardawil.
Aquatic Facilities Operator, Nelson Gonzalez, said that from the surface, the pools look fine, where the actual problem lies is underneath the pool, especially the underside of the diving well.
“From underground, the pool room, the pump room and the storage area under the diving well is cracking and you could see the concrete actually splitting,” Gonzalez said. “It’s pretty excessive cracking, it’s not just small little cracks.”
Rainwater is also seeping through the roof of the pump room, according to Gonzalez.
In addition to the cracking and rainwater, Gonzalez said that the filter pit of the diving well, where the filtration system of the pool is located, is “leaking out and breaking apart,” which is why you could see a yellow substance running along the filter pit wall.
“A lot of things are falling apart, but the pool is not going to collapse while you are swimming. This is good preventative work,” Gonzalez said.
In terms of chemicals, the pools remain well-regulated, according to Gonzalez.
“The pool is still functioning and working, but what is happening is that some of the exterior structure of the underside of the Aquatic Center, because of the exposure overtime, has caused the rebar to expand and there’s some spalling,” Bardawil said.
The Aquatic Center was built in 1985 and is out in the open air and on the salt water of Biscayne Bay. This contributes to the pool’s exposure to harsh elements overtime, which take a toll on the rebar, or steel bars, that reinforce the concrete walls of the Aquatic Center, causing fragments to break off, according to Bardawil.
The issues were brought to the attention of higher administration about a year ago, according to both Bardawil and Gonzalez.
“We brought in some companies to see what the estimates were and because it became that the costs would be over certain thresholds, we then brought a consultant, the engineer and the architect,” Baradwil said.
Bardawil told Student Media that the pool repairs are estimated to cost between $1.4 and $1.5 million and that “funding is being determined.”
“We want to repair all the areas [that suffered] from the exposure. They are going to remove the planters…waterproof them and fill them, waterproof the deck and increase the deck size,” said Bardawil.
Depending on the timeline and intensity of the repairs, there is a chance that the olympic pool will still remain open, but the diving well will be closed, according to Bardawil.
“In the life cycle of the facility, this would be when you do [the repairs],” he said. “Everything will be done, hopefully, by September for [the swimming team’s] first meet on September 26 against the University of Florida.”
This is the first time the diving well is having repairs done.
In a follow up meeting, Bardawil confirmed to Student Media that the diving well will be ready by September.
The olympic pool has gone through two similar repairs before. The first documented repair by Student Media was in 2007. This was the first repair made to one of the pools and paid for by the Student Government.
The pool was closed in May 2007 to repair a leak found by Bardawil.
The sudden announcement led to the FIU Swim and Sports Academy summer camp to find alternatives to the swimming camp. The repairs, along with other areas of renovation, cost $800 thousand and took two years to complete.
Five years later, the pool was closed for a pipe leak in 2014 caused by surface erosion, according to Aquatics Supervisor, Barry Tucker. Unlike before, the repair was paid for by the WRC. The exact cost of the total repair wasn’t mentioned. But, the WRC paid over $10 thousand to fix the leak.
Fixing the actual leak costed $200 to $300; while replacing the chemicals for the pool costed an estimated $300 to $800. The pool was also refilled, but the department is permitted to refill the pool free of credit once a year, according to Tucker.
Gonzalez said that him and his coworkers were notified about two months ago that the diving well was closing without any warning, and that in the meantime they are being relocated to other aquatic areas like kayaking and paddle-boarding.
The FIU swim and dive team use the Aquatic Center to prepare for competitions and for practice. They have won five consecutive C-USA championships and produced Olympians such as Naomi Ruele and diver Maha Gouda.
Although the team is on their off-season, they still practice to prepare for the next season, said Ruele to Student Media in an interview from Thursday, March 28. Although most of the team will be away in the summer, their season starts in September.
The repairs will be done in September, according to Bardawil, giving the diving team very little time to practice in the diving well before their home opening on September 26. However ,the FIU Swim team will be able to use the olympic pool during renovations.
FIU athletics was not available for comment about the team’s plans if the diving well is not ready by September.
Tucker and Bardawil said that the olympic pool will be open for summer use by community groups and FIU Departments.