New Canaan Y Proposes ‘Bubbling’ Waveny Pool for Use Next Winter


Saying the “bubbling” of Waveny Pool for winter use next year would serve high school as well as New Canaan YMCA swimmers, minimize schedule disruptions and keep competitive swim team families here in town, Y officials on Wednesday night formally introduced the idea of installing a heated temporary dome over the outdoor pool while their South Avenue facility undergoes major renovation.

Waveny Pool, March 2014. Part of the YMCA's proposal for a "bubble" to use the pool next winter would include a heated hallway between changing/locker facilities and the pool itself. Credit: Michael Dinan

Waveny Pool, March 2014. Part of the YMCA’s proposal for a “bubble” to use the pool next winter would include a heated hallway between changing/locker facilities and the pool itself. Credit: Michael Dinan

The Y would cover all capital costs associated with the “bubble” and provide for heated locker room and bathroom/shower facilities—whether by winterizing the Waveny Pool’s existing locker rooms or through trailers, Executive Director Craig Panzano told the Park & Recreation Commission at its regular monthly meeting.

“I think the key word here tonight is ‘temporary,’ ” Panzano said at the meeting, held in the Douglas Room at Lapham Community Center. “We are not trying to do anything permanent. We just want a temporary solution.”

The Y plans to break ground on its renovation project (details here) next September. It includes creating a new aquatics center where its main pool—the one used by NCHS teams as well as the Y’s USA Swimming teams (76 percent of whose athletes are New Canaanites)—now exists, so those competitive swimmers must find somewhere else to practice from September 2015 to summer 2016.

An example of a pool "bubble" from the New Canaan YMCA's Oct. 8 presentation to the Park & Recreation Commission.

An example of a pool “bubble” from the New Canaan YMCA’s Oct. 8 presentation to the Park & Recreation Commission.

The “bubble” over the Waveny Pool—a polyurethane “blanket” inflated with air pressure that includes a second thermal layer and can go up in about two weeks—would stand about 30 feet high, according to Steve McGrath, president of Stamford-based Broadwell USA, LLC. (McGrath was introduced as the Y’s consultant/expert on the cold weather-proofing bubbles.)

At that height, the bubble would rise above the conifer trees that line the edge of the Waveny Pool area. The bubble itself would be anchored to the pool deck by .5- or .75–inch bolts drilled into the deck itself and spaced six to eight feet apart, McGrath said. The bubbles can withstand winds of up to 150 mph and snow loads of 50 pounds per square foot, McGrath said (he recommended handheld snow blowers for clearing the perimeter of the bubble as needed).

Commissioners put questions to the Y and McGrath about insurance, safety, air quality, noise and deck/property repairs after the bubble would come back down in the spring of 2016, and called for a more detailed presentation within two months that would include site-specific renderings and a detailed timeline.

The Y would host no meets at the domed Waveny Pool, Panzano said—the facility would be used for competitive swim team practices only. Since most of the swimmers involved are dropped off, parking could be accommodated by the lot already plowed through the winter by DPW (the one between the pool and platform tennis courts), Y officials said. They also said the bubbles are safe—that the Wilton Y, for example, has used one for years—as well as virtually noiseless (about the same as a residential AC unit, McGrath said), and that they could use propane for winter heating.

Panzano said more than once that he is not only executive director at the YMCA, but also a New Canaan resident who is active in the community, enjoys Waveny as such and that his own kids have come up through the public schools.

He emphasized that, because there’s no viable Plan B after the Waveny Pool, many New Canaanites stand to lose out if an agreement cannot be reached.

“It would be an incredible hardship for the community and for the YMCA,” Panzano said.

He added that the heating mechanism that the Y would fund for permanent installation at the Waveny Pool would mean the town in future years could choose to open the facility earlier in the season (than Memorial Day weekend) and keep it open later, meaning the arrangement—though no formal “rent” would come to town coffers—would leave the Waveny Pool an improved, more valuable facility.

Commissioner Jason Milligan asked whether the Y would consider helping to offset the $150,000 cost for a widely discussed project to replace the pool’s plaster lining—a capital project for which the self-sustaining Waveny Pool, despite an increase in revenue this year, has struggled to raise sufficient funds. Panzano said he would be open to making a case to the Y board for a contribution to that project—a statement backed up by Y board member (and longtime, dedicated Y Masters swimmer) David Kirby, also in attendance.

Commissioner Andrea Peterson raised the specter of divisions between the Y and some “South of the Y” neighbors, regarding the organization’s renovation. New Canaan’s highest elected official, First Selectman Rob Mallozzi, who was in attendance at the meeting, told Peterson that his experience—for example, when the Teen Center five years ago had some problems, or during emergencies where residents had no power and no place to go—has been that the Y is “a terrific neighbor.”

“I’m going to tell you what it’s like at my desk,” Mallozzi said. “Whenever I’ve needed something from the Y, they’ve usually volunteered before I had to ask.”

Should the Park & Recreation Commission formally support the Y’s proposal, approvals still would be needed from the Planning & Zoning Commission, officials said.

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