Within 24 hours of the News reporting alumni anger at the University’s lack of communication regarding a proposal to build a new pool for the school last week, University President Peter Salovey reached out to the group of alumni swimmers that spearheaded the proposal.
The alumni had complained about what they perceived as a lack of responsiveness from Woodbridge Hall, saying they had not received an answer to various forms of communication, including a letter sent to Salovey in November.
Three and a half years ago, a group of Yale swimming alumni came together in an effort to either renovate Yale’s natatorium or build a new facility. They talked extensively with the University and raised $20 million on their own to help pay for a facility located near the Yale Bowl. However, the University has decided that a downtown location would be the best fit to not only meet the needs of the Yale swimming and diving team, but also all members of the Yale community.
Director of Athletics Tom Beckett said the University has decided the pool should remain in the Payne Whitney Gymnasium, adding that the University has communicated this decision to both the swimming alumni group and the Yale Swimming and Diving Association.
The University believes that a natatorium located near the Yale Bowl would be difficult for other members of the Yale community to access and use on a regular basis, he said.
Swimming alumni and member of the Alumni Group Tim Garton ’64 echoed Beckett’s reasoning, adding that a new alumni-funded interim facility near the Yale Bowl would exacerbate the total maintenance costs Yale would have to pay.
Garton first came to the News last week ago to criticize the University’s lack of communication with the Alumni Group — a group of about 150 former swimmers who raised the $20 million needed to build a new pool. Garton said the University administration has been proactive in reaching out to the alumni group over the past week. Salovey has already requested a meeting with the leaders of the pool replacement project during which he will explain the reasoning behind its rejection of the alumni’s initial proposal to build a pool near the Yale Bowl.
While communication with Salovey’s office had been sporadic, Beckett asserted that communication with the Alumni Group and the athletic department has remained consistent.
“The communication has been regular and candid between the University and the Alumni Swimming Group over the past few years while working on this project,” Beckett said. “There have been differences of opinions along the way, but there has always been the attempt to keep talking. That remains the case.”
Eight alumni interviewed — all of whom have no relations to the alumni group lobbying for the new pool — were skeptical of the claims that the swimming alumni had made.
Stephen Blum ’74, the strategic director of the Association of Yale Alumni, said the proposal for the new pool was a complex issue that would invariably make some alumni unhappy. A member of the Yale Sports Federation — a relatively new group of alumni that lobbies on behalf of Yale Athletics — Blum said Beckett had done an outstanding job of communicating with concerned leaders of the YSF in prior meetings.
“Occasionally alumni get upset about programs that don’t go their way, but I can tell you the University bends over backwards to accommodate the needs and desires of the alumni,” said Mark Dollhopf, executive director of AYA. “I think any claim that the University is ignoring or mistreating the alumni is most likely to be absolutely false.”
Estimated costs of a new natatorium adjacent to Payne Whitney Gym are in the $45-$60 million range, according to the Alumni Group.