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Keuka College will close swimming pool

KEUKA PARK—The lone indoor swimming pool in Yates County will close permanently Aug. 15. Keuka College Vice President For Student Development James Blackbird announced high operation costs and low usage rates contributed to the decision to close the pool. After the pool in Weed Physical Arts Center closes an auxiliary gym will be constructed in the space.
Blackbird said, “There is no doubt that our pool is an asset to the college and the community. However, with our limited resources we had to consider the relative worth of the pool and an auxiliary gym.” According to Blackbird it costs the college nearly $72,000 a year to operate and maintain the pool. Keuka receives just $13,400 in annual revenue from groups who use the facility.
The amount of use of the pool was also a factor in the decision. Blackbird said current usage of the pool revealed there are 136 community residents who use it including those who take swim lessons, use it for fitness swimming and are members of the local youth synchronized swimming group. Use of the pool by Keuka students is also minimal. According to Blackbird, only 57 non-lifeguard students, or 6.2 percent of the student body, use the facility.
Blackbird said, “Finances alone did not drive our decision to decommission the pool. In fact, the programmatic advantages to closing the pool far outweigh the financial benefits. Keuka students have stated repeatedly and with great passion, that additional gym space is a critical need.”
Statistics support that. Thirty-four percent of Keuka students are involved in intramurals and the college has seen a 126 percent increase in intramural participation over the past three years. “This growth has been significantly inhibited by our lack of indoor gym space,” said Blackbird. “Additional gym space will allow the college to expand intramural and recreational sports offerings, thereby enhancing our recruitment and retention efforts and the community will certainly benefit from the additional gym space in terms of recreation and fitness programs.”
The college’s intercollegiate athletics program which draws 29 percent of the student body will also reap benefits from an auxiliary gym, according to Blackbird. He said “It will provide much needed indoor practice space. Our spring sports teams will benefit most of all because they are frequently forced inside in bad weather.”
Synchronized swimming was the only intercollegiate sport at Keuka to use the pool. It was a mainstay intercollegiate offering until this year when it was relegated to club sport status following a significant drop in roster size. The college announced earlier this spring it was dropping the sport as a result of its inability to grow at the regional and national levels. Synchronized swimming was dropped because it was no longer viable. That decision was not tied to finances or pool use, according to Blackbird.
The college looked at adding men’s and women’s race swimming teams but discovered it was problematic. Financial issues and problems with the length and number of lanes in the pool would have restricted the college to hosting single meets. It would not have been able to host multiple team events such as North Eastern Athletic Conference or NCAA post season events.
Blackbird said the college investigated the possibility of building a stand alone gym, but found it to be cost prohibitive. He indicated the college is exploring ways to address some off the aquatic needs of the community, particularly swimming lessons, at the newly renovated lakefront facility. He said there are a number of indoor pools nearby including at Hobart and William Smith College, Marcus Whitman High School and YMCA’s in Geneva, Canandaigua, Corning and Hornell.

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