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Columbia Swim Center to reopen with new look


By today, the dust and debris covering the Columbia Swim Center's floors and one of its two swimming pools should be cleaned up, and the ceiling tiles should be put back into place in time for the newly renovated center's reopening.

Closed since late May, all areas of the center - except for the main pool - are scheduled to reopen today with practically new everything as part of a $2.7 million renovation.

"Almost everything you'll see now has a new finish on it," said Frank Standafer, project manger for the Columbia Association. "We had to get everything cleared out, look at it, inspect it and repair it."

A long list of renovations included: new roofs, lighting, ceiling and floor tiles, paint, bathroom accessories, locker room floor drains and a front desk. The facility, in Wilde Lake Village Center, houses two 25-yard pools, a wading pool, a sauna, a pro shop and a snack bar.

"I think that the members will be quite pleased with the enhancements," said Maggie J. Brown, president of the Columbia Association. "The whole renovation has gone quite well."

Standafer said the center's program pool, used for activities such as swim team practices and water aerobics, needed to open this month in time for swim team season. Late last week, he anticipated that staff members would be working during the holiday weekend until last night to finish the project. "This is a fast-track job," Standafer said. "We've been working a lot."

The public has been anticipating the reopening of the main pool, primarily used for recreational swimming. People have been calling the Columbia Association's aquatics office or stopping by the swim center, hoping to hold birthday parties at the two, four-story flume waterslides, said Matt Goode, the swim center's manager. But they will have to wait until late next month. Scaffolding stands in the pool, drained of its approximately 180,000 gallons of water.

Translucent panels and steel framing are being repaired or replaced in the building that houses the pool. The flumes are being coated with gel and wax, making them slicker and quicker.

"It should be a lot more fun for the kids," Standafer said.

The center, Columbia's first indoor fitness facility, had been showing its age. The main pool was built in 1968, and the program pool was constructed six years later. The center last had a major renovation in 1988, when the flumes were installed.

"In an aquatics environment, it's a much more corrosive. ... A lot of basic, structural things needed to be redone," said Rob Goldman, the Columbia Association's vice president for sport and fitness.

In December, the Columbia Association's board of directors voted to finance the renovation of the center, which had 83,563 visitors last year. The board opted for the renovation instead of building a new facility, which would have cost between $7 million and $14 million, depending on whether the Columbia Association also wanted to upgrade the facility.

While the swim center was closed, members were allowed to use Columbia's 23 outdoor pools or the indoor pools at the association's two health clubs.

Standafer said the center's improvements should last at least 20 years, holding down maintenance costs.

"We're not just thinking about cosmetic changes, we're thinking about any structural problems throughout the center - electrical, mechanical," he said. "That was our main goal, to get the structure back to where we need it."

Goldman said the renovation is going to make the center look like "a brand new facility."

"It gives us comfort knowing that we made a lot of structural improvements that make it not only look like a new building, but will also make it last for many, many years," he said.

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