CHATTANOOGA, Tenn., Jan. 28. BAYLOR School announced a groundbreaking for a new $9 million dollar upgrade to the school’s current athletic complex yesterday that will include a new natatorium and expanded and improved wrestling facility.
Project leaders say the renovations will be completed by November 2004, in time for the 2004-05 swimming and wrestling season. The pool will be the only indoor 50-meter pool in a 130-mile radius, with the closest one being in Knoxville .
“These improvements are yet another sign of our commitment to our strategic objective to recruit more students to our boarding program. This will greatly enhance our ability to recruit top students, who also have an interest in making the most of their athletic talents,” said Jon Kinsey, chairman of the Board of Trustees.
“Good boarding schools have quality aquatic centers. It’s simply a given,” said Headmaster Jim Buckheit.
The new pool will be located to the east of the existing Field House, making way for the current pool area to be converted into the new wrestling facility.
Included in the renovation will be:
- A natatorium that will include a long-course pool measuring 50 meters by 25 yards, a diving well, seating capacity of approximately 600, as well as new entrance and locker, lobby, and concessions facilities.
- An upgrade of all existing locker rooms.
- A three-mat wrestling facility in the current pool area, that will include a new entrance, locker, lobby, and concessions facilities. When it isn’t needed for wrestling, the space will serve as a multi-purpose athletic and recreation facility.
- Additional parking.
Head Swim Coach Rick Bishop says the new pool will provide the space needed to serve students at all levels who want to participate in Baylor’s swimming program and give both Baylor and club team swimmers a competitive advantage at the regional and national levels.
“The new swimming facility at Baylor will allow our swimmers to train and compete in one of the finest high school pools in the country. Having year-round access to long-course training will be invaluable, and will give them a competitive advantage over most high school swimming programs in the country,” Rick says.
In addition, the 50-meter pool will provide a potential revenue source and marketing tool through swimming lessons, hosting major competitive meets, and expanding summer camp offerings.
Two years ago USA Swimming, the governing body of competitive high school swimming, mandated a pool depth of four feet. Because the current facility is less than that, the move made it impossible for Baylor swimmers to practice their starts and prohibited the school from hosting home meets – a severe blow to a swimming and diving program that has produced more state championships, more All-American athletes, and more college scholarships than any other sport in Baylor’s athletic history.
As if that were not enough, structural problems, poor ventilation, and a serious problem with leaking heightened the need for a new facility. Additionally, the current pool was designed and built when Baylor had a student body of less than 500 boys, a stark contrast to today’s coeducational school of more than 1,000 students.
Likewise, the current wrestling facility was built in the early seventies and no longer matches the size and quality of the program. “We are competing on mats that are not regulation due to the size of the space. The new facility will give the junior varsity and varsity teams a more competitive venue and will also give the Lower School the opportunity to develop skills and build their program,” says Jim Morgan, Baylor’s head wrestling coach.
The wrestling program has claimed eight state championships and has been state runner-up nine times. Baylor wrestlers have been TSSAA individual champions 47 times since 1971.
Franklin Associates, Inc., is the architectural firm for the project, and EMJ Corporation is the general contractor.