By Bill Benner
Indiana Sports Corporation
Indianapolis, IN, June 2. SO how do you build, on the floor of a basketball arena and in less than two weeks, two pools worthy of hosting the best swimmers in the world?
Answers: Very carefully, and with meticulous planning.
"This is like construction surgery," says Michael Dilts, operations vice-chair for the 7th FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) to be held in Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Oct. 7-11, 2004. "There is no room for error. The tolerances are so tight."
Which is why – when construction of the competition and warm-up pools begins on the floor of the NBA home to the Indiana Pacers – more than 2-1/2 years of planning will have taken place. Building the pools and decking, filling the pools, filtering and heating the water, installing the timing equipment – and then reversing the process once the World Championships have concluded – is a monumental task by anyone's standards.
"On a construction scale of 1 to 10, I'd put it at a 9," says Dilts.
It also requires tremendous coordination and cooperation among a wide range of parties. Myrtha, an Italian company, will build the pools' framework and ship it to the United States prior to the event. Dilts, president of Indianapolis-based construction company Shiel Sexton, will oversee the actual construction of the pools and the filtering/heating elements. The design of the pools and how they fit into Conseco Fieldhouse to ensure outstanding spectator sightlines is being led by John Dierdorf of the Indianapolis architectural firm of Browning Day Mullins Dierdorf. Jeff Elrod, of Jack K. Elrod Company, will oversee the building of the decking.
Myrtha's U.S. representative, Spear Pool Company, will provide installers. Tom Rutledge, vice president of operations for Pacers Sports & Entertainment, Inc. will direct the pool build and teardown logistics on behalf of the Fieldhouse. And Jim Greeson of the Indianapolis Fire Department will oversee the filling and draining of the pools.
The timeline calls for construction to begin on the floor of the Fieldhouse on Sept. 22, 2004. The pools will be filled with water on Sept. 27-28. Everything is to be in place by Oct. 4, when the pools are turned over to FINA, the international governing body for swimming, so that practice can begin. When the competition concludes, workers will have three days to drain the water and disassemble the pools in time for the Pacers to play preseason games.
Dilts estimates a force of more than 100 people working around the clock to build the pools. The previous record for building a temporary competition pool is five weeks. That was done in Barcelona's Palau Sant Jordi for the 2003 FINA World Championships.
"Everything is on a critical path," Dilts says. "There will be 24-hour work days to get everything race ready."
The eight-lane competition pool will be 25 yards wide, 25 meters long and two meters deep. It will take up 6,151 square feet (572 square meters) on the Fieldhouse floor (a basketball court, by comparison, is 4,700 square feet) (437 square meters). When filled, the competition pool will hold 300,000 gallons (1,135,590 liters) of water.
The six-lane warm-up pool will be built in the north end of the Fieldhouse floor, where stages are normally built for concerts. It will be 16 meters wide, 25 meters long and two meters deep. It will hold 175,000 gallons (662,428 liters) of water when filled.
The framework for the pools will be built around pre-constructed concrete slabs that will rest on the Fieldhouse floor. Vinyl lining will be attached to the framework and form the lining of the pools.
The height of the competition pool and decking will be about seven feet, eliminating the first 14 rows of seating on the floor level. However, it will serve to bring the swimmers closer to the spectators seated in the Krieg Devault Club Level and balconies of the Fieldhouse.
"The spectator sightlines are already excellent in Conseco Fieldhouse," says Dierdorf. "But this will make them even better. I'm anxious to see the reaction of the spectators and I'm looking forward to the opportunity for swimming to become more of a spectator event. It will create a buzz. People will want to know, 'Were you there?' and 'Did you see it?' "
"When we do this, there's going to be a real feeling of accomplishment," adds Dilts. "I want the best swimmers in the world to leave Indianapolis realizing they'd been part of a phenomenal meet in a phenomenal pool."
As for his involvement, Dilts asks only one thing in return.
"As soon as the pool is filled, I absolutely get to take the first lap," he says.
POOL CONSTRUCTION FACT SHEET
What: 2004 FINA World Swimming Championships (25m)
Where: Conseco Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
When: Oct. 7-11, 2004
Competition Pool: Eight lanes, 25 meters long, 25 yards wide, two meters deep.
Capacity: 300,000 gallons.
Warm-Up Pool: Six lanes, 25 meters long, 16 meters wide, two meters deep.
Capacity: 175,000 gallons.
Water: The Indianapolis Fire Department will oversee the process of filling and draining the pools.
Concrete and Aggregates: Irving Materials, Inc.
Seating: Seating capacity for the FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) is expected to be about 10,000.
Sept. 22 – construction begins.
Sept. 29 – pools filled with water.
Sept. 30-Oct. 3 – water is filtered, heated. Timing equipment installed, decking completed. Lane lines, starting blocks, flags installed.
Oct. 4 – pools turned over to FINA; practice begins.
Oct. 7-11 – competition.
Oct. 12-14 – pools emptied, disassembled.