Nata­to­rium makes a splash

High school holds grand open­ing of long-dis­cussed pool, cen­tral plant

Springfield Sun - - NEWS - By Linda Finarelli lfinarelli@21st-cen­tu­ry­media. com @lk­finarelli on Twit­ter

AMBLER » The grand open­ing of the Wissahickon High School Ath­letic Com­plex lobby and Nata­to­rium Nov. 2 caused quite a splash — in more ways than one.

Sev­eral hun­dred turned out for an open­ing cer­e­mony pre­ceded by guided tours fea­tur­ing the 10-lane com­pe­ti­tion pool, four locker rooms and raised seat­ing for 342 spec­ta­tors.

The nata­to­rium was part of a $23 mil­lion project that in­cluded a new cen­tral plant com­pris­ing heat­ing and cool­ing ele­ments, an emer­gency gen­er­a­tor and pool pump and fil­tra­tion sys­tem that took about 18 months to com­plete.

“The cen­tral plant is a huge piece of this,” Su­per­in­ten­dent James Cr­is­field said prior to the cer­e­mony. The high school pre­vi­ously did not have a pool, he said; stu­dents and com­mu­nity groups — Tro­jan Aquat­ics and the Wissahickon Com­mu­nity Aquat­ics Club — used the old, small pool at the mid­dle school, which was not deep enough for diving and was “still work­ing but was in­ef­fi­cient.”

The mid­dle school pool al­lowed for only one event or prac­tice at a time, Cr­is­field said.

“This is more ef­fi­cient, it’s an in­vest­ment in the fa­cil­ity,” he said.

Greg Wild, co-chair of Tro­jan Aquat­ics, a “de facto booster club” sup­port­ing the high school wa­ter polo, swim and dive teams, and wa­ter polo at the mid­dle school level, said be­fore­hand he would be “speak­ing from a com­mu­nity per­spec­tive” at the event.

Not­ing he “was very in­volved in driving the process,” Wild said, “Once this is up run­ning and good, [the dis­trict] will be­gin the process of clos­ing the mid­dle school pool,” which will be re­placed with an au­di­to­rium.

“The old pool is in de­sign to see if we can build an au­di­to­rium,” dis­trict Busi­ness Ad­min­is­tra­tor Wade Cole­man ac­knowl­edged. Fol­low­ing ar­chi­tec­tural de­sign, “we could take it to the board and see if it wants to purse it with the cost, prob­a­bly in 2018.

“The mid­dle school has never had an au­di­to­rium.”

The state-of-the art pool has a move­able block­head, al­low­ing for more than one use of the pool at one time, 14 ad­justable diving blocks, a scoreboard that can track swim­mers times, and a 12 ½-foot depth for diving.

“We’re very ex­cited to have this,” WHS sopho­more Hannah Havrilla, a mem­ber of the swim team and WCAC, said dur­ing a tour. “We’re happy this fi­nally came through.

“I love it. It’s ev­ery­thing we hoped for.”

“It is in­cred­i­ble, isn’t it?” Wissahickon School Board Pres­i­dent Sherri Becker said, kick­ing off the open­ing cer­e­mony fea­tur­ing a swim noo­dle cut­ting, first plunge, swim re­lays, wa­ter polo scrim­mage and diving. “This is a wa­ter­shed mo­ment.”

In 2013, a group of par­ents told the school board “about some se­ri­ous is­sues with the [mid­dle school] pool,” and af­ter 14 months of study and dis­cus­sion of re­ports, “it be­came clear the Wissahickon com­mu­nity would ben­e­fit from a new pool,” Becker said.

The nata­to­rium be­came part of a long-term fa­cil­i­ties plan in­clud­ing the “much needed cen­tral plant,” wa­ter drainage is­sues, and a re­con­fig­u­ra­tion of the school bus park­ing lot “to pro­vide more safety for stu­dents,” she said.

“I can’t help but think how for­tu­nate our stu­dents are. I look for­ward to see­ing the com­mu­nity at large shar­ing it.”

Cr­is­field called the nata­to­rium “an ex­am­ple of the en­tire com­mu­nity hav­ing a growth mind­set,” and thanked the com­mu­nity for its in­vest­ments in the school com­mu­nity and Lower Gwynedd Town­ship of­fi­cials for a “level of trust that is in­cred­i­bly valu­able to us.”

He also thanked the “aquat­ics ad­vo­cates” and con­trac­tors who “had an un­be­liev­able com­plex task.”

“This is awe­some,” Wild told the crowd. “The high school wa­ter polo and swim teams can ac­tu­ally prac­tice to­gether. We can have large league events … be a host site for Sub­ur­ban I cham­pi­onships — this wasn’t pos­si­ble be­fore – and more recre­ational ac­tiv­i­ties for the com­mu­nity.”

Swim team cap­tains poured some wa­ter from the mid­dle school pool into the new pool, “merg­ing the past with the fu­ture,” Blair said, be­fore mem­bers of the swim teams and alums took a “first cer­e­mo­nial plunge.”

Re­lays, a wa­ter polo scrim­mage and diving demon­stra­tion fol­lowed.

“It was a com­plex project,” Cr­is­field noted ear­lier. “The best thing was to see the re­ac­tion of the stu­dents” when they first saw the nata­to­rium.

“It’s not a bad thing to be ex­cited about your school.”


Swim team mem­bers dive into the pool for a friendly com­pe­ti­tion dur­ing grand open­ing of Wissahickon High School’s Nata­to­rium Nov. 2, 2017.


Su­per­in­ten­dent Dr. James Cr­is­field speaks dur­ing grand open­ing of Wissahickon High School’s Nata­to­rium Nov. 2, 2017.


Dig­ni­taries pre­pare to pull apart a rib­bon of floata­tion noo­dles dur­ing the grand open­ing at Wissahickon High School’s Nata­to­rium Nov. 2, 2017.


Swim team mem­bers Nicky Pis­copo, Bobby Mc­far­land, Maddy Hip­pen­steal and Peter Decker make “W”s with their hands dur­ing grand open­ing of Wissahickon High School’s Nata­to­rium Nov. 2, 2017.


Start­ing blocks line the pool at Wissahickon High School’s Nata­to­rium dur­ing grand open­ing cer­e­mony Nov. 2, 2017.


Mem­bers of the swim team jump into the pool to­gether dur­ing grand open­ing of Wissahickon High School’s Nata­to­rium Nov. 2, 2017.

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