Student Voice


June 16, 2024

Pool closed due to costly maintenance

September 24, 2009

After 52 years of continuous use, UW-River Falls officials decided earlier this summer to close the Karges Center pool indefinitely.

The pool was closed as a result of continuing maintenance issues, according to the University’s Web site.

Ken Ecker, recently hired as the new head of the Heath and Human Performance Department, learned of the pool closing shortly after starting at UWRF. 

“I started here July 1, and I learned that it was decided that the pool would be closed until further notice at a meeting that day,” he said.

The cost of maintaining the pool was the overriding factor in the move to close it.

“The filtration problem in the pool would cost $12,000 to fix,” Ecker said.

Without the additional cost of repairing damage, Ecker said yearly maintenance costs for the pool would be over $40,000 simply to keep the facility running. 

“It’s like an old clunker,” Ecker said. “Fixes are temporary and it isn’t worth the new parts.”

For Bill Henderson, head coach of the UWRF swim team, safety became an issue with the Karges pool.

“Rust is literally coming up from the rebar and into the tile in the bottom of the pool,” he said. “We started to worry the structure would just collapse into the space below it.”

Eventually, UWRF officials determined upkeep on the current pool wasn’t cost effective.

“What we need is a new pool,” Ecker said.

Initial brainstorming for a new facility has begun, but no plans have been put in place.

The current cost of the new HHP facility that is in the works is $60 million Ecker said. A pool would add nearly $13 million to that.

“The new HHP building will be designed in January,” Ecker said. “A pool isn’t a part of the plan.”

UWRF officials have asked Henderson for his opinion.

“The state is just not going to approve [$13 million],” Henderson said. “I’m trying to think outside the box and figure out how we can make the facility happen.”

Until a new facility is built, physical education classes have to join the swim team in using the River Falls High School pool.  With the absence of a facility on campus, the swim team moved its practices, to the RFHS pool.

“So far it’s worked out well,” Henderson said.

Practice times were adjusted to accommodate the move. At Karges, swimmers were split into practice times at 6 a.m., and 2 and 4 p.m. At RFHS, those times are now 5:30 a.m., and 8 and 10 p.m.
The practice location changed, but meet locations have not.

“We’ve been swimming our meets [at RFHS] since it opened in 2002,” Henderson said.

The agreement has worked for both sides. 

“We continue to receive positive feedback from those at the high school,” Henderson said.

The RFHS pool also has features the Karges facility did not offer.  Henderson said the Karges pool hadn’t been up to NCAA standards for nearly its entire life. It only had five lanes compared to the eight the high school pool offers and lacked a one-meter diving board that the RFHS pool provides.

“It was a real hit-and-miss situation,” Henderson said. “I had to tell our divers to find their own facility and train on their own time.”

Despite the uncertainty surrounding the future of the swim team’s facilities, Henderson and his team make do.

“It’s lemons and lemonade for us,” he said. “I call us the little red engine that could.”