This is the last semester that Plattsburgh State students, faculty, staff and community members have to enjoy the Memorial Hall pool. This summer, as part of the Memorial Hall renovations, the PSUC pool is closing and being turned into another gymnasium and recreation space.
Currently, the PSUC pool has a versatile usage from open swim, to high school swimming team practices, to winter kayak training for the expeditionary studies program. It also offers swim lessons to the community as well as lifeguard training.
PSUC has two gyms for students to use. One is in the center of campus in Memorial, which is overcrowded from hosting basketball, both pick up and PSUC games, cheerleading, volleyball and other club meetings that require the space. The second gym in the Field House is located a mile from Memorial down Rugar Street and is used primarily for sport team practices and not club recreation.
Lifeguard and PSUC junior Davian Viera is not only losing his job as a lifeguard, but also a classroom.
“This is where I got my lifeguard certification, this is where I was taught how to save lives,” Viera said while overlooking the still pool from the bleachers. “When I look at this pool I always get a flashback of the original skills I learned.”
Viera used those skills a few weeks ago to save a someone’s life while on lifeguard duty at a pool in New York City when a swimmer lost consciousness. He attributes the life-saving skills he learned to Karen Waterbury, director of recreation and club sports and the lifeguard course instructor.
“I saved a life due to the skills Karen taught me — in this pool,” he said.
Waterbury declined an interview with Cardinal Points, and provided the following statement instead: “I am very disappointed with the closing of Memorial Hall pool. Having a variety of recreational opportunities is important so we can meet the needs of all of our students. It’s a huge loss to our students, faculty, staff and community.”
Without the pool, the lifeguard program at PSUC which trains lifeguards in the life-saving skills Viera used will no longer be taught.
During the Fall 2017 semester, a group of public relations students led a campaign as part of the program’s capstone campaigns class to save the pool, which eventually shifted its focus to make people aware that the pool is in jeopardy of closing.
Colleen Lemza, campaigns class professor, shared that the students’ research showed that the majority of students believed PSUC should have a pool, but a very low minority of students would use the pool.
Both Lemza and Viera expressed the importance of a college having a pool to attract prospective students.
“We’re going to be known as the college that doesn’t have a pool,” Viera said.
He also stated that not having a pool on top of not having a football field may turn away visitors.
It’s Viera’s hope that PSUC find the funds to keep the pool and provide transportation to the field house gym for recreational activities.
The PSUC pool closing also affects the community. Local schools and swim teams like the Lake Champlain Waves use the PSUC pool for their practices and meets.
Lemza’s daughter swims competitively on both the Peru High School swim team and the Lake Champlain Waves US team.
Her daughter, Maddy, is hoping to pursue swimming in her higher education as well, so much so that when she learned Peru may not have a swim team in the future she looked into boarding schools.
She found a program she likes and is now living away from home at the age of 15 at a boarding school with a competitive swimming team.
Since Maddy Lemza made her decision, the Lake Champlain Waves and Peru High School have modified their arrangements, which may not be as efficient, in order to keep the swimming programs alive for the teams.
Colleen Lemza understands the need for the Memorial renovations and the restrictions it creates, but she is glad that the local swim teams are able to survive and that swimming is secured in Plattsburgh.
As the renovations on Memorial Hall go into high gear, the pool will close permanently in May. The Memorial Hall renovations are scheduled to be completed next year.