A matter of priorities

The University of Wyoming’s half-century-old Corbett Pool is too short to host most swimming events, its ceiling is too low for many diving events, and its lack of versatility makes switching between swimming and diving events cumbersome.

Despite those challenges, UW is unlikely to renovate or rebuild the pool anytime soon, officials from the Athletics Department said.

“That is something that, at some point, we will have to address,” Athletics Director Tom Burman told the Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Appropriations Committee on Dec. 7. “We have two Division I swimming programs and our pool is — I don’t want to say ‘in complete disarray’ — but it’s in pretty tough shape and we’re going to have to address it at one point.”

Plans to renovate or rebuild the pool facility were being discussed before the state financial crisis — which ultimately resulted in $42 million being cut from the university’s budget.

That cut to UW’s state block grant made the university re-evaluate its priorities, said Tim Harkins, associate athletic director for media relations.

“We don’t have any immediate plans in place right now for the Corbett Pool project,” he said.

“It’s something we’ve been looking at for the past decade, but right now, it comes down to funding priorities on campus.”

One problem with the “antiquated” pool is its length, which is roughly 25 meters, said Bill Sparks, senior associate athletic director for business operations. Because more modern pools have 50-meter lanes, swimmers competing at UW have to make twice as many turns to go the same distance.

“And when you’re doing competition meets, that is not something, obviously, that other teams practice for,” Sparks said. “We have real difficulty getting teams to come in and compete here. They have to go over and compete over at the (Laramie) Rec Center or at (Laramie) High School.”

Corbett Pool also lacks versatility, Sparks said. While many pools have a separate diving well so divers and swimmers can compete in their respective events simultaneously, UW does not. To switch to diving, Sparks said, a swim meet must be paused and lane dividers must be moved.

“Most places, the diving is going on at the same time your swim meets are going on,” he said. “We do not have that capability because we do not have a separate diving area.”

And the diving area itself is limited, its low ceiling making high diving platforms impossible.

“Until Laramie High School was built, the diving team didn’t have the ability to practice off of a higher platform. And the highest platform Laramie High School doesn’t have it. We have to go down to Air Force or some place … to practice.”

During the Joint Appropriations Committee in December, lawmakers asked Burman if the Athletics Department would be able to find support for a renovation through private donors.

“In all honesty, I think raising money for a pool project would be a great challenge,” Burman said. “It doesn’t mean that it’s not extremely needed and No. 1 on my priority list, but the private sector I just don’t think would be there to fund a swimming pool project, based on the conversations I’ve had with people around the state.”

He added swimming simply does not have the support other sports — such as football and basketball — enjoy.

“Could we raise some money? Yes, but a pool is a very, very expensive project,” Burman said. “A renovation project like that, you would need a bare bones minimum of probably $25 million. If you do it right, you’re over $30 million. That’s a lot of money to raise.”

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