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(PHOTOS) Buildings supervisor: Campbell school district’s aquatic center needs replaced, repairs ‘a Band-Aid’

GILLETTE, Wyo. — Campbell County School District officials said that because the current aquatic facility is showing its age and repairs will become difficult to make, it’s best to construct and open the new aquatic center.

“And if we do make repairs, it’s a Band-Aid repair. It’s not permanent,” said Supervisor of Buildings and Grounds Sean Mathes, a Gillette native who’s worked for the district for 26 years.

Mathes said the existing center opened in 1984 and it’s served the community extremely well. It’s the site where the district’s students have learned to swim. Mathes said he himself was a competitive swimmer.

“It’s been such a pillar for this community. It’s done so much good for the community, but opening up a new facility is going to be that much greater. It’s going to be able to serve the kids that much better,” he said. “It’s going to last through my career for sure.”

Sean Mathes on the roof of the current aquatic facility. (Mary Stroka/County 17)

Aquatic centers tend to last about 35 to 40 years, based on industry standards, he said. The biggest difference in building engineering for the aquatic center compared with other buildings is that it requires a specialized heating, ventilation and air conditioning, or HVAC, system to keep the deck temperature about the same temperature as the pool, he said.

It’s also a very caustic environment, he said.

“It’s a stainless steel shell pool, and chlorine attacks stainless steel and any other metals,” he said.

There’s been settling in the north wall basement and the northwest corner that’s been repaired, and there’s damage under the bottom of the pool tub, he said.

The ceiling of the current aquatic facility. (Mary Stroka/County 17)
The ceiling of the current aquatic facility. (Mary Stroka/County 17)

“It’s a safe pool in order for the facility to keep functioning for next 20 years, 10 years, 5 years or by 10 years the pool is gonna have to be replaced, which is just not possible,” he said.

Once the new aquatic center opens, the old one will close, he said. The new pool will have a floor that can be moved to increase or decrease depth, he said. It’s less expensive to have a moveable pool floor than have a junior pool, he said.

The junior pool for smaller children at the current facility. (Mary Stroka/County 17)

The current facility’s water filters, which filters out skin cells and other contaminants, aged out about 20 years after it was installed, he said.

The filter system at the current facility. (Mary Stroka/County 17)

There are also cracks in the foundation, he said.

The water heating system used to rely on coal, but the coal boilers couldn’t easily be replaced and continued to have mechanical problems, he said. About five years ago, they began using steam boilers.

The old aquatic facility (Mary Stroka/County 17)
Cracks in the foundation in the old aquatic facility (Mary Stroka/County 17)
The boiler system at the old aquatic facility (Mary Stroka/County 17)
The boiler system at the old aquatic facility (Mary Stroka/County 17)
The boiler system at the old aquatic facility (Mary Stroka/County 17)
The boiler system at the old aquatic facility (Mary Stroka/County 17)
Pneumatic system at the old aquatic facility (Mary Stroka/County 17)
Salt for water softening in the basement of the old aquatic facility (Mary Stroka/County 17)

Mathes said equipment and facility maintenance problems are pretty continuous at the facility. Maintenance staff have to tend to Around 2019, staff had to repair the pool’s shell because it was leaking, and it will need more repairs, as it’s currently leaking, he said.

In students’ experience, water sometimes gets too cold or too hot, he said.

Contract (Campbell County School District)

Superintendent for Instructional Support Dennis Holmes said at a fall school board meeting that the pool remains functional.

“But at this point, I’m very confident I am confident that I don’t know that things are going to improve,” he said. “And I think that this time is the right time to move forward with the construction in the aquatic center.”

Holmes said in an email Feb. 16 that school board members will determine what happens to the old aquatic center and that there’s not been any discussion of that yet.

The current aquatic center was built in the early 1980s in conformance with disability-inclusive standards at the time, and the replacement facility will be ADA compliant with contemporary standards, Holmes said.

The new pool will offer more space for swim meets’ spectators. Currently, there’s standing room only, and that’s challenging the community because swimmers and coaches need to be on the deck too, Mathes said. The moveable floor will attract more teams to compete, he said. Mathes has a brother who works on a national zoning committee.

“We didn’t build a pool to attract those events but we did make the changes to accommodate those events,” Mathes said.

Mathes said the new site for the aquatic center, at the Energy Capital Sports Complex, was suitable because it’s thematic.

The site for Campbell County School District’s new aquatic center. (Mary Stroka/County 17)
The site for Campbell County School District’s new aquatic center. (Mary Stroka/County 17)

Staffing at the replacement facility will remain the same, he said. Twenty-six employees help school district facilities run, Mathes said.

Holmes said he’s not sure when he plans to leave the school for other work or for retirement. Mathes said he doesn’t have a retirement plan at this time and he doesn’t have any plans to leave until retirement.

Neither specified how County 17 can find out whether homeschooling students or private school students will be able to use the new facility.

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