Water world

During the last weekend in September, Denison pulled out all the stops for Big Red Weekend, with picture-perfect autumn weather featuring bright blue skies and puffy white clouds—and with the introduction of alumni, families and friends to the Trumbull Aquatics Center, a long-awaited addition to the campus. The expansive $20 million center is named in honor of Scott ’70 and Margy Trumbull.

It was worth waiting for. The centerpiece of the facility, a magnificent new natatorium, features a 50-meter long, 25-yard wide competition course, a large separate diving area, and seating for 1,000 spectators.

“The completion of the Trumbull Aquatics Center, along with Phase Two elements of the Mitchell Athletics and Recreation Center, fulfills longtime ambitions of campus leadership, the Denison Board of Trustees, college alumni, and the athletics and recreation staff,” said President Dale Knobel. “We started on a path toward these outstanding new facilities with the Campus Master Plan of 1999, but it was the care and loyalty of key Denison donors that finally made them possible.”

On the morning of Saturday, September 28, the pool undertook its first official function, with the college’s annual Alumni and Family Swimming and Diving Meet. Onlookers watched from the red spectator seating above to catch the competition between the undergraduates and alums, and even a few of their children.

Coach Gregg Parini gathered all the competitors at the west end for a giant group bear hug just before everyone stood for the National Anthem, sung by the Denison Hilltoppers, a student a cappella group, dressed in their familiar navy blazers, khakis, and red Denison ties.

The meet included more than a dozen freestyle, backstroke, butterfly, and breaststroke events for undergraduates and alums, as well as several medley relays. Competitors and observers checked the huge digital scoreboard mounted on the east end wall to check out the official times.

Before the final swimming events, the male and female divers, coached by Jason Glorius, gave an exhibition in their 14-foot-deep diving well for both the one-meter and three-meter springboards. The diving area measures 52 feet by 40 feet, and features four boards.

The natatorium has windows around its perimeter that reach to the roof, allowing spectators to see the terrain outdoors and the trees showing off their fall colors against the bright sky. The building also features skylights, and Coach Parini says the sight of the water in the pool is breathtaking in the early morning as the sun rises from the east.

Parini was hired in 1987 by athletic director and former swimming coach Ted Barclay, who gave him a book on pool design “since it was time to plan for a new pool.” Although the university has given serious thought to it for the past 10 years, the actual planning began in 2006, and all the waiting has made for a product that was done right. Hastings and Chivetta Architects of St. Louis were the designers, and Lincoln Construction became the general contractor.

The new addition to the Mitchell Center of 75,943 square feet brings its total size to 278,589 square feet. The pools hold 4,100 tons of water, according to Larry Scheiderer, Denison’s director of athletic facilities.

Says Coach Parini, “We wanted the pool to be contemporary and to serve a number of definite needs. It wasn’t built solely for the swimming team, and it will serve the greater community for a number of years—physical education classes, learn-to-swim classes, varsity teams, and the disabled.  It has a 75-yard by 35–yard movable floor that can be set at 7.5 feet deep and raised or lowered 1 inch at a time to accommodate young swimmers. The bulkhead at the east end also is movable and can be used as a divider, allowing competitive activity or training at one end while we’re offering swimming lessons at another. Our swimmers can now practice laps of 50 meters to prepare for national competition. This facility is state-of-the-art and rivals the best pools in the country.”

Denison alumnus and former swimmer Aaron Cole ’00 of Houston agrees. When asked what the Aquatic Center will do for recruiting future students he said, “There’s no reason we can’t get the fastest swimmers in the country. We have better academics than 99.9% of the Division I programs, and now we have a facility that is arguably one of the top 10 in the country.”  Cole, a Denison Hall of Famer, was selected as the NCAA’s National Swimmer of the Year twice in his four-year Denison career, and was honored as an Academic All-American and an NCAA Postgraduate Scholar.

Swimming alumna Mollie Parrish Zook ’02 of Worthington, Ohio, agrees. She said, “This facility will help the program. The coaches have always done a fantastic job of recruiting and with this grand facility they can grow and do even more innovative things with practices and meets.” Parrish, who was inducted into the Denison Hall of Fame this year, also was honored as the NCAA’s National Swimmer of the Year.

Diver Phil Meyer ’12 finds his name on the All American Wall.

But it’s not over ’til it’s over, so get ready for more surprises. In the Red Zone area in the main lobby leading to the pool, there are two interactive 50-inch plasma touch screens where you can search through a complete history of Denison athletics, checking pictures, people, records and stats, sport by sport, and a virtual Hall of Fame. Another wall features lists of All Americans, Academic All Americans and NCAA Postgraduate Scholars. And the wall just before you reach the pool has pictures, names and other information about every Varsity D Association Athletic Hall of Fame member. Eyethink designers of Powell, Ohio, created these handsome additions along with other interior design features throughout the larger renovation project.

Current expectations are that the entire $38.5 million project will be completed in the summer of 2013, when the bi-level fitness center, which is now being constructed in the footprint of the old Gregory Pool, will be finished. It is projected to hold 114 pieces of equipment for fitness and training.

Says Scheiderer, “The new fitness center will bring everything together and still have more collective space than before, with even a bit of room to add more equipment in the future.”

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