The Westport Weston Family Y's Building What Matters project to construct a modern new facility at its Mahackeno campus achieved a final milestone on Tuesday, Aug. 12.
Call it "Filling What Matters" -- as the spigot was turned on to begin filling the 10-lane, 25-yard lap pool with some 262,672 gallons of water.
Workers from Main Line Commercial Pools, the Pa.-based company in charge of completing the Strittmatter Family Aquatics Center, applied a final coat of plaster to the pool shell before turning the hose over to Ellen Johnston, longtime Head Coach of the Y's vaunted Water Rat Swim Team and Director of the Y's Competitive Swim Program.
"What a moment," said Johnston as she stood on the pool deck Tuesday evening, looking on as workers labored into the night to complete the tiling of the lap pool and to prepare the adjacent warm-water shallow pool for its own plaster finish and filling. "Our Y, and our community as a whole, has long faced a critical need for more pool capacity, and this amazing new Aquatics Center will go a long way toward filling that need."
In addition to serving as the new home waters for the Y's 200-member Water Rat youth team and its nationally competitive Masters Team of adult swimmers, the Y's Aquatics Center will offer a host of other features and amenities.
Chief among them is the Aquatic Climbing Wall. Situated in the deep end of the lap pool, the "aquaclimb" will allow adventurous tweens and teens the chance to scale a tall Plexiglas panel arching out over the water studded with handholds and toeholds, then drop back down into the water. It's the first such aquatic climbing wall in the state of Connecticut and sure to be a popular attraction.
The adjacent warm-water shallow pool is loaded with special features for recreational swimming, aqua fitness classes, therapeutic exercise, lifeguard training and swim lessons. Stationed in the shallow end are several "splash zone" play features for pre-swimmers. Down the gradual slope of the zero-depth entry, past the railings that allow complete access for seniors and those with limited mobility, is a long, wide bench with whirlpool jets for soothing and socializing.
Just beyond the whirlpool bench is the aqua basketball court, with two hoops on either side of the pool, which then flows into two 20-yard swim lanes, ranging from 3-ft to 5 ft. in depth, to be used for swim lessons and more aqua exercise. In all, this warm-water (88 degree) pool will hold 49,851 gallons of water.
Whether you're standing on the pool deck, sitting in the bleachers in the upper-level Observation Gallery or looking through the floor-to-ceiling windows of the gymnasium that overlooks the two pools, our Y's Aquatics Center will be an impressive sight.
Just as impressive is what pool users won't see: The state-of-the-art filtration system. According to Pat Costanzo, the Y's Director of Property and Facilities, the pool's filtration system is capable of filtering out particulates of less than one micron in size, versus the 20-micron capability of the sand filters currently in use.
The filtration system is also far more efficient in terms of water usage. The Y's current pools typically use 7,000 gallons to backwash the system. The new system, called the Neptune Benson Defender series, will use only 500 gallons per backwash, and with more efficient motors, will save as much as 30 percent in electrical costs.
What's more, coupled with a high-tech ultraviolet system and air-circulation controls, the Y pools' new filtration system will significantly lower chemical usage as it sanitizes the water more effectively and eliminates virtually all chloramines in the atmosphere.
"In terms of the technology involved, and the resulting benefits in terms of health and safety, cost and comfort, this is a quantum leap," says Costanzo.
After the pools are filled with water, a process that should be complete this week, state guidelines dictate that the pool water be conditioned for a minimum of 10 days before being inspected and certified for public use.
An official opening date for the new Y facility will be announced later this month.
"Unfortunately, we're unable to confirm exactly when we will complete our construction punch list and receive the necessary sign-offs, which will allow us to open our pools," says Family Y CEO Rob Reeves. "We don't want to open our new Y until the entire facility is ready for use by our members and guests, but we fully expect to be up and running in our modern new facility in early September."