city pagesNews

City Pages

Citing budget constraints, University of Georgia President Michael Adams withdrew an unpopular proposal last week to close Legion Pool and build a new pool near the intramural fields at Lake Herrick.

Adams has acknowledged that outcry over closing Legion Pool caught him by surprise, but he cited money, not community opposition, as the reason he backed down.

“Questions have been raised about the efficacy of the plan in these challenging times, and building a pool in this economic climate may be seen as frivolous,” he wrote to University System Chancellor Hank Huckaby in a letter dated Oct. 17 and released to the media Oct. 22.

Adams, who is retiring in June, said he’ll “let the next president grapple with this matter as he or she begins the next phase of master planning for the campus.”

But he continued to make the case for demolishing Legion Pool in his letter to Huckaby. He argued that the Lumpkin Street pool, on the outskirts of campus when the American Legion built it in 1935, is now in the congested heart of campus, and that students whose fees pay for its upkeep are under-utilitizing it. “This, I believe, is ultimately a matter of appropriate use of student fees and, perhaps more importantly, a matter of the highest and best use of land which lies adjacent to academic and residential facilities.”

UGA’s plan, unveiled in July, called for turning Legion Pool into greenspace that would one day be surrounded by new dorms or academic buildings. The $2.6 million new pool would have been funded by student fees, reserves and the UGA Athletic Association and included student-friendly modern amenities like a bubble bench and infinity edge. Critics—including the state historic preservation office and many UGA faculty and staff who frequent the pool—questioned the expense when repairs would cost less than a fifth of demolition and new construction, according to a university estimate.

“The narrative indicates renovation costs of $490,000 but provides no context, including why it has been determined to be a not cost-effective candidate for repair, and considering reference to future construction of a pool elsewhere on campus, how repair costs compare to the cost of the replacement facility,” Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer David Crass wrote in July.

A 2011 audit by pool experts Counsilman-Hunsaker found that Legion Pool needs about 20 repairs to bring it up to modern standards, including a new floor and filtration system. It leaks 24,000 gallons per day, and the yearly water bill is $10,000. But the university has no plans to repair the pool.

“It will operate as it has been,” said Vice President for Public Affairs Tom Jackson.

Although the historic pool’s final fate is still up in the air, local activists praised Adams’ decision to back off. “This is a real victory for the Athens/UGA community and for the moral and legal obligations of UGA for proper stewardship of its historic properties,” Grady Thrasher, Kathy Prescott and Sara Baker, who led efforts to save the pool, said in a statement.

Another issue also remains: UGA still lacks a historic preservation plan as required by state law. Administrators say they don’t need one because they’re good stewards, but critics say a plan could have prevented the Legion Pool controversy.