After months of construction, Western students will start the semester with a splash after the ribbon cutting ceremony officially opened the newly remodeled swimming pool on Tuesday, Aug. 30.
Over the summer the Looney Complex underwent approximately $600,000 in renovations; this includes a complete overhaul of the pool interior, remodeling of the locker rooms leading to the aquatic area and the construction of an external entrance to the pool area.
For months the fate of Western’s pool was uncertain. With low attendance and a substantial leak in the pool lining, it appeared that money was literally going down the drain while students, faculty and administration questioned keeping the pool open at all.
Missouri Western President Robert Vartabedian credits the Board of Governors for their insistence on preserving the pool.
“We had recommended to the Board [of Governors] that we move on and convert it into another facility, and the governing board insisted that we keep trying.”
Thanks to Western’s recent partnership with the city of St. Joseph and the St. Joseph school district, the pool will remain a fully operating entity. With the new remodel the pool was also officially dedicated as the Thomas Eagleton Indoor Pool, paying tribute to the U.S Senator who pushed for additional funding for the school to install the pool over fifty years ago.
Vice President of Student Affairs Shana Meyer was amazed at the rallied support from the community to preserve the pool, despite its poor conditions.
“We began this process several years ago in the spring of 2014. At that time, we were facing a lifeguard shortage, pool usage was at an all-time low and the pool was leaking an astronomical [amount];five gallons of water every 45 seconds,” Meyer said.
The Eagleton Indoor Pool is one of only two public indoor pools in the St. Joseph community. St. Joseph Mayor Bill Falkner felt the renovations to Western’s pool will be a great service for both the students and the community as a whole.
“Our community deserves this pool. We needed an indoor pool, and it was obvious that the city couldn’t build one, so it only made sense to partner [with the university],” Falkner said. “We all knew the importance of what this pool means to this community.”
The city of St. Joseph has signed a five-year contract with Western to make annual payments to offset operational costs of the pool, in exchange for community access. Eagleton pool is now open to the public for a minimum of 30 hours per week with a visitors fee of $4 per visit for all community members. The Eagleton pool will also serve as an indoor practice facility for the St. Joseph Pony Express high school swim team.
An honorary plaque and several display cases filled with memorabilia honoring Senator Eagleton will also remain on display throughout the Looney Complex.