Stony Brook’s swim team is facing another extension to their forced competitive hiatus after funding for the $10 million pool renovation was cut, according to a recent email announcement sent out by the Office of the Vice President of External Relations.
The announcement informed students and athletes alike that the school’s pool, which doubles as a classroom for some academic programs, would be closed for the foreseeable future.
According to Stony Brook’s media relations officer, Lauren Sheprow, the architectural plans for the pool are in progress but funding for the pool was reallocated to “key critical maintenance” and campus repairs.
“Key critical maintenance projects are those that feed electricity and hot water to campus facilities,” said Sheprow during an interview. “If you don’t have light, you don’t have a swimming pool to swim in either.”
The delay in construction has thrown members of the team into the dark, especially since they don’t know when or if the pool will be open again for use.
“This is an opportunity for me to get my grades up,” said Joe Zhu, a junior business management major.
The Athletics Communications Director, Thomas Chen, said that the department is not able to give the swim team or on-campus community an idea of when the pool will be completed because the pool falls under the jurisdiction of university facilities. He also said that the there are no local pools that the team can use to train in.
“The university and the athletic department explored whether or not there is a viable option off campus and right now that’s not an option,” said Chen.
The swim team’s interim head coach, Chris Brandenberger, has encountered a funding problem before. His alma mater, University of Maryland, recently cut the men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams. The teams had to raise $11.6 million, some $1.6 million more than Stony Brook’s goal, after the athletics department decided to cut funding. After a nationwide appeal and extensive media coverage, the team was able to raise $1 million but stopped short of saving the program.
If Maryland was able to get such wide coverage and support for the program, but couldn’t raise the funds, then it doesn’t bode well for Stony Brook’s athletes, according to Brandenberger.
This is not stopping athletes like Allison Zellnick, the women’s team captain, from trying. She is planning to start up a fund, appealing to local businessmen to raise the $10 million needed.
Zellnick, a junior, came to Stony Brook from Troy, Ohio for swimming, but has now accepted that her days as a competitive sprinter are over.
“I could transfer out, but I’m academically set to stay at Stony Brook,” she said. “I’m not really going to be a swimmer ever again.”
The men’s team captain, Hajime Ichikawa, a senior health science major from Scarsdale, New York, said that attempting to raise the funds and supporting the team is the only option left for the upperclassmen.
Stony Brook’s athletics director, Jim Fiore, consulted the team before the email was sent out, letting them know that the team will not be cut. Fiore said that even if the team does dwindle out, he is planning on building the team back up, according to Ichikawa.
“That’s the only hope I have,” said Ichikawa. “I’ve been working for this team for the future, to build up the program. I can only hope. That’s all I can do.”