IMPE renovations leave swimmers displaced

By Meghan Montemurro

Two years.

Two years of having every meet away and traveling by bus and plane.

Two years of a cramped pool in Louise Freer Hall for 34 swimmers and divers.

But in spring 2008, it will all be worth it for the University of Illinois’s women swimming and diving team.

This is the scheduled time the renovations and expansion of the Intramural-Physical Education Building (IMPE) will be completed.

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Thirty-five years after IMPE was first opened, a major facelift was needed. Associate Director of Campus Recreation Gary Miller said the band-aid approach to making changes to the facilities ended when there were no viable changes left to use.

“Over time you make adjustments to fit your current needs,” Miller said. “When the project began we had reached a point where we felt that there weren’t any band-aids available to us anymore.”

The renovation of the indoor pool at IMPE was in the project’s plans from the beginning after it was approved in a student referendum in 2001. Miller says that he thinks the renovation will positively affect the women’s swim team and program.

The indoor pool’s renovations include a new roof, a new and improved air handling and ventilation system, upgraded lighting, windows in the west hall and a new entrance into the pool.

Miller acknowledges the renovations have put the women’s swim team in a less than ideal position.

“It’s obviously not the best situation for them, but it is unfortunately necessary for this construction to take place,” he said.

Illinois head coach Sue Novitsky is happy to see the problems that existed with the swimming pool being taken care of. She believes the ventilation system will be the key improvement for the swim team. With the new technology available, the air quality will allow for better training and a more stable environment.

Since the renovations have taken place, the Illini have been displaced to Freer Hall, a much more cramped facility. Novitsky has had to make adjustments, especially with training.

“Sometimes if you want to break into different training groups, you just don’t have the space to do that,” Novitsky said. “On Tuesdays and Thursdays we run three different water workouts to spread them out so they have the lane space that they need.”

The lack of space can also be looked at as a positive, Novitsky pointed out.

The close space results in more group work which allows the swimmers to swim with one another and get to know each other better.

Novitsky said the team doesn’t focus on the negatives in being in Freer Hall, but instead the ways in which it has made the team stronger in the long run with all of the traveling that takes place.

“It’s something that we can’t control,” Novitsky said. “Hopefully one of the byproducts of that is it does make them tough, especially when we travel to the Big Ten Championships.”

Once IMPE reopens, Novitsky said they will start to have home meets again and the schedule will become more balanced, with less traveling.

Novitsky said she is looking forward to going back to IMPE for the training space, both in and out of the pool that is available to them to use. Pool time and availability will be a welcomed addition. Because of this, the team’s training schedule will be more in line and better for the athletes for their recovery time. Novitsky said the team will also be looking forward to getting their lockers back as well.

Novitsky sees the renovations of IMPE and the swimming pool helping recruiting in the future.

“You get to come into a more up-to-date building,” Novitsky said. “It always helps to see the pool that you’ll be competing and training in; that will be one of the big benefits of getting the pool back.”