University of Georgia President Michael Adams and other senior administrators haven’t decided the fate of Legion Pool yet, Associate Vice President for Facilities Planning Danny Sniff told a committee of faculty, staff and students Friday.
UGA is considering demolishing the pool, a popular gathering place for university employees, and replacing it with a new, smaller one near Lake Herrick aimed at drawing more students. A University System Board of Regents vote on the plan that was scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 10 has been put off indefinitely as administrators reconsider the idea.
“There’s not been any decision made, and I don’t know that there’s a timeline for that,” Sniff said.
Sniff, like Adams, acknowledged that community opposition to getting rid of Legion Pool was greater than expected. “One thing that may have come as a little surprise, not a huge surprise, was the passion. It’s not just a University of Georgia issue.”
Facilities Committee members told Sniff that they feel left out of the process and questioned the wisdom of spending $2.6 million on a new pool when renovating Legion Pool would cost an estimated $500,000. “When we’re not getting raises, and the town is passionate about it, to me it’s a no-brainer,” one committee member said. “Let’s fix the pool.”
Sniff said the cost figures aren’t set in stoneâ€”the $2.6 million is a “worst case scenario,” and he expects to find additional problems at the 77-year-old pool that would boost the cost of repairs once either the renovation or new construction reaches the design phase. “Those aren’t numbers to fixate on,” he said.
He also reiterated that recreation might not be the best use for valuable land in the middle of campus. Administrators would like to turn the property into greenspace eventually surrounded by new dorms or academic buildings. “What’s the best use of this land for the university in the long term?” said Chuck Toney, an assistant to Adams. “That’s the question that’s driving this.”
Although Adams made the decision to tear down Rutherford Hall in spite of community opposition, Sniff defended Adams’ record on preserving greenspace and historic buildings, noting that he turned Herty Field from a parking lot to a pocket park and opted to renovate the Lamar Dodd building rather than tear it down. Adams also fought Sniff’s initial plan to build a road around the Legion Pool property for tailgaters and students moving in to nearby dorms, Sniff said. Adams has added more than 100 acres of greenspace to campus as president, he said.
“In this case, he’s very consistently said, ‘I want this to be greenspace,'” Sniff said.
Some committee members raised the issue of whether the university could stop losing money on Legion Pool by opening it in the spring and fall, when more students are around. Sniff said he couldn’t comment on the pool’s operations, but he said freshmen living in dorms are too busy to swim, and many upperclassmen live in apartment complexes that have their own pools. However, when combined with other amenities and recreation opportunities at Lake Herrick, students might use the new pool more often, he said.
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