Memory Tour Begins for Field House Pool

Oct. 6, 2009

83 Years in the Field House Pool (photo gallery)

Editor’s Note: The following article first appeared in the Oct. 4 edition of the Official Sports Report (OSR) for the University of Iowa. OSR is a daily e-newsletter exclusively about the Iowa Hawkeyes. Click HERE to learn more.

IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa swimming and diving program began its Magical Memory Tour on Oct. 3 with the Black & Gold Intrasquad meet in the Field House pool. It is the same Field House pool that was built in 1927 and housed Hawkeye Big Ten Championship men’s teams in 1936, ’81 and ’82.

“It’s almost surreal. This will be the 83rd year in this pool,” UI head coach Marc Long said. “It has a great feel and we have a lot of respect for this facility. It’s a special place to train and compete.”

2009-10 will be the final encore.

Next season the Hawkeyes move into the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center (CRWC). The $69-million facility will include a 50-meter competition pool, a separate diving well, a leisure pool with lap lanes, and 24,000 square feet of fitness space.

“There are a lot of limitations to the Field House facility and we’re very excited about the future,” Long said. “It will be sad to leave the Field House, but it’s time to move on. We need to honor this and our teams take that seriously.”

When the Field House pool was built in 1927, it was the world’s largest indoor swimming pool. It has been the site of numerous state, national and international competitions.

“The greatest impact on the sport of swimming was the development of the buttery, the dolphin kick,” Long said, referring to the stroke pioneered in the Field House pool. “It is still one of only four strokes we have competitive-wise. Having that developed here is a special thing.”

“It’s almost surreal. This will be the 83rd year in this pool. It has a great feel and we have a lot of respect for this facility. It’s a special place to train and compete.”
UI head coach Marc Long

But for a Division I program in the always-competitive Big Ten Conference, it is time to upgrade. Lanes in the Field House pool are 50 yards long with a nine-meter diving tower; regulation distance is 50 meters with a 10-meter tower. The weight room is a converted racquet ball court. All acoustical tiles have been removed from the ceiling after several were found floating in the water below. A scuba diver is required to move the existing bulkhead, which is so old it won’t move on its own. The heat control in the facility is one valve that was installed more than 80 years ago. Recently, a working light fixture fell into the pool.

With that said, for several seasons, the Hawkeyes have traipsed on using the motto, “Water is water.”

“We said that because we had to,” Long said. “But it developed a toughness with the team. They never complained and they were always respectful.”

Nick Divan is a senior from San Juan Capistrano, Calif., where the majority of swimming facilities are outdoors.

“I thought training indoors at Iowa would be a cool thing,” Divan said. “It’s a pool with a lot of history. Everyone comes in here and they think, `Wow, this pool is old and kind of run down.’ I love training in this pool — it’s fast. I’ve had some of my best workouts here. I can’t think of a better place to end my swimming career than in this pool.”

The Field House pool was a state-of-the-art facility in the 1920s. It also has a rich military history as it was used for pre-flight training.

“The Army tiled the floor, that’s why we have this color (khaki and green),” Long said.

For nearly 50 years in its hay day, the Field House pool hosted the very popular “Dolphin Shows,” a kind of Vaudeville performance that included trapeze and gymnastics acts.

“It was the greatest show around,” Long said. “You could get almost 3,000 people in here and the place really rocked.”

Adding to the history is the current balcony that once was used as bleacher seating for Iowa’s football stadium — before Kinnick Stadium opened in 1929. Adding to the lore are tales from an age when Hawkeye wrestlers trained in a room above the Field House.

“There are great stories of wrestlers jumping through the ceiling and into the water,” Long said.

Now it’s time to say goodbye.

“We want to make all the alumni especially proud because they’ve done so much for us,” said sophomore Danielle Carty of Ontario, Canada. “It’s going to be really emotional. We’re not just racing for our current team now, we’re racing for all of our alumni.”

Carty is one of several on the UI roster who will get to compete in the CRWC next season.

“There is a lot of excitement,” she said. “It’s like a fresh new start. We’re going to have one of the best pools in the nation, so we’re looking forward to that.”

On April 17, 2010, there will be a final swimming and diving competition in the Field House — the annual Alumni Meet.

“It will be mixed emotions,” Long said. “We’re obviously thrilled about moving into the (CRWC), but it will be sad to leave here.”