Orchard Mesa Community Pool a gathering place for local swimmers

It’s been a challenging season, to say the least, for the Mesa State College women’s swim team.

The fourth-year program is forced to train at the Orchard Mesa Community Pool instead of practicing on campus for the first time while a new natatorium is being constructed.

“It’s difficult because this is not our pool,” Mesa State sophomore Megan Takakura said. “It’s hard to get used to the lifeguard rules and doing workouts at certain times.”

When it comes to the Orchard Mesa Pool, Mesa State and the rest of the local swim teams are finding out just how important sharing is.

Orchard Mesa is the only choice in Grand Junction that has enough room to allow swim teams to properly train in the pool.

Fruita Monument High School has its own pool, so the Wildcats practice and host meets at
home, although many of the Wildcats’ meets this season have been as a visiting team at Orchard Mesa.

Before adding Mesa State to the mix, the OM pool was already the training facility for high school teams from Grand Junction and Palisade/Central and the two club teams in town, the Grand Junction Dolphins and the Grand Valley Wave.

And because it’s a community pool, Orchard Mesa has open swim times and learn-to-swim programs.

That’s a lot of people in one pool.

All the teams are limited to certain practice times. The Mavericks have 14½ hours of practice a week at the pool and have to share space with the public during some practices.

Mesa State’s practice time is from 2-4:30 every afternoon and the Mavs have an early morning practice twice a week.

The practice times don’t allow the Mavericks to get in a full workout, Mesa State coach Brian Pearson said, and it’s a meter pool instead of yards, the standard for college events.

“This is an oppressive facility,” Pearson said. “The fact that they don’t really want us here is a part of (the problem).

“It’s definitely a lack of home venue feel. At the college, we could practice whenever we needed to. We can spend extra time if we need to. We’ve had several power outages in the last two meets here. It exasperates things.

“We’d much rather not have home meets, especially here, because of the hassle. This is like an away meet for us. Once we have a sense of home, we’ll really sprout.”

Even before the pool at Mesa State was shut down as part of the renovation at Saunders Fieldhouse, the Mavericks couldn’t host a meet on campus.

The last remodel of the fieldhouse removed the diving well and made the pool into a practice/recreational facility.

That remodel came before the college added women’s swimming as an intercollegiate sport.

The Mavericks haven’t been alone in the sacrifices. The two high school teams and the club teams have had to cut practice or shares the pool, unlike the past.

“We go from 7:30-9:30 p.m. and Grand Junction is in the pool at that time, as well as the diving teams,” Palisade/Central coach Steve Weir said. “I wish we could get more space, but the recreational people have done a good job trying to accommodate everyone.”

The WarDogs have taken a hit in losing the morning practices they had last season and with an inexperienced team, getting enough pool time has been difficult.

“When they shut down the Mesa pool, that put a lot of people out of pool time,” Weir said.

“The more practice we can get, the better.”

Although the teams might be feeling the squeeze of the limited pool space, Orchard Mesa’s pool manager, Pete Ashman, said the addition of Mesa hasn’t added too much pressure to the already tight schedule.

“What we have tried to do is make the pool available to everyone who needs to use it,” Ashman said. “What it has taken is some creative work on our part to make sure we can get everyone in here.”

The situation isn’t ideal for anyone, but it’s only temporary.

Mesa’s natatorium might not be ready for the start of next season, which begins in October, but it is expected to be completed by the end of 2009, so the Mavericks should be able to move into their own facility when they return from the semester break.

“I think this will help us in the long run,” Mesa State sophomore Sarah Hagerstrom said.

“During the season, it’s hard, but once we’re in Texas (for the RMAC Championships), it will be so much easier. It will help in the long run.”

The Mesa State natatorium will be 26,035 square feet and will include a 10-lane pool that will range in depth from 5-20 feet. The diving well will feature a 3-meter board and a 1-meter springboard.

Balcony-style seating for 750 will be built above locker rooms for varsity teams and recreational use.

Much like it’s done with the new Walker Field soccer and Bergman Field softball stadiums, Mesa State plans to make the natatorium available for high school and club meets as well as offer college students club sports such as water polo.


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