Bowman Gray's Water Gets Away; Repairs to 67-year-old Pool Costly

The usual summer soundtrack of splashing and laughter created by those seeking to beat the heat in UNC’s oldest pool has been replaced this year by drilling, sawing and a disappointed silence.

Massive leaks related to age have closed Bowman Gray indoor pool and placed the facility on a wish list for a vital makeover that exceeds the current budget by $200,000.

A series of leaks in the 67-year-old pool’s inlet pipes caused flooding in the dressing rooms in late March. The severity and number of leaks forced facilities to close the pool. A thorough examination of the pool revealed problems with the main drain pipe and scum gutter pipes in addition to the leaky inlet pipes.

The lowest bid for a complete renovation of Bowman Gray amounted to $200,000 more than the repair budget for the pool. Contractors estimated the total cost of the renovation at $500,000. Facilities and aquatics staff agreed to use the existing money to repair the inlet pipes and to put Bowman Gray on the capital improvements wish list for the other renovations.

“These were all the original pipes,” said Eamonn Lanigan ’02 (MA), director of aquatics. “They have all broken or cracked in the past, but this time they all broke at once.”

Technicians are replacing the original steel pipes, many of which have almost completely corroded, with plastic PVC pipe. Lanigan and facilities officials estimated the work would be done near the beginning of the fall semester. Depending on available funds, major renovations might take place next summer, Lanigan said. This summer, most swimming classes and activities have moved to Kessing outdoor pool and Koury Natatorium, the pool adjacent to the Dean Smith Center.

The unavailability of Bowman Gray caused cancellations and disruptions for several programs. Lanigan planned to offer swimming lessons to children attending Carolina Kid’s Camp, an idea he scrapped when the pool closed. The campers swim in Kessing every afternoon, and Lanigan wanted to conduct the lessons for the first 30 minutes in Bowman Gray, after which children would join the other campers in the outdoor pool.

“The outdoor pool isn’t big enough to handle both the lessons and the campers,” he said. “It upset a lot of people.”

Students and instructors in swimming lessons earlier this year also had to adjust to the cooler outdoor temperatures. Despite the inconvenience, Lanigan said the summer is the best time to do repairs on Bowman Gray because most pool-use requests are for the outdoor pool.

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