Swim Team Moves out of KSU

Anika Nyp, Staff Writer

COVID-19 and operation costs dealt the final blow to the Kansas State University Natatorium earlier this year, leaving the Manhattan High swim teams in limbo about how to practice and host for the 2020-2021 season. As the boys swim season is about the start, the MHS has found a location in a nearby community to allow the season to take place. 

The Natatorium announced the shutdown last spring during what should have been girls swim’s season. 

“I got a text message from my assistant saying, ‘You’ve probably heard did you’ and I immediately went to K-State’s website and saw that they had posted a thing saying that they were not going to open the pool for this semester,” said head coach Alex Brown. “We got a message saying that they were not going to be opening it again in the spring. Then we started to make plans for an alternative pool.” 

In large part the shutdown is due to the cost to maintain the facility. The natatorium was built in 1975 at a cost of $1.75 million (along with the addition onto Ahearn Field House). It is now costing more money than it brings in, but it would cost around $30 million to rebuild.

“They’re losing a lot of money with how old it is,” Brown said, “and it just financially isn’t able to be sustained. They do not plan on rebuilding it, they have said they’re going to have it closed within the next three years and it’s unknown if they will put water back in it again.” 

This left the boys and girls teams wondering if their seasons were even going to happen. 

“I’d say the initial reaction ‘is are we going to have a season, what are we going to do?’” Brown said, “and the main thing, Mr. [Mike] Marsh and I focused on just saying, ‘hey, we’ve already started talking to multiple groups about using their pools and to stay patient and that we’ll get something figured out.” 

With nowhere to go for the fastly approaching boys season Brown and Athletic Director Mike Marsh worked together to find a solution.

“We brainstormed and reached out to several people,” Marsh said. “There’s limitations on indoor facilities around, around this area. So we had reached out to Wamego.” 

The team is now going to be transported to the Wamego Aquatics Center every day after school.  

“We worked out some plans to the budget, and so on and we’re able to shift some money around so we can accommodate a daily bus trip, because it is a trip every day,”Marsh said. ”And kids will be required to ride the bus as well as coaches will be required to ride the bus,” Masks will also be required on the bus as well as temperature tests and social distancing protocols in the lanes. 

“We’ll be doing some dryland workouts where kids will be able to social distance up on the deck. And for safety purposes as well as swimming pool rules we’re only going to be allowed so many kids per lane,” Marsh said. ”And so that’s how we’ll work out social distancing and so on kids will be required to wear a mask. While on the bus and any other time that they’re not social distancing they’ll be required to wear a mask.” 

Due to the Nat closing Manhattan will not be able to host any meets this year. The meets that are away do have special guide lines that are always changing on how many COVID cases in that county. 

“I’ve been working on a revised schedule for about a month now, and it’s been quite difficult, because with case rules they’re trying to limit how many teams can be at meet,” Marsh said. “Some of the larger meats are having to break up and either cancel those meets or split them up. And so right now we’re just going to have to be very patient to see where all that lands.”

Right now the coaches and teams are just focusing on the practices and being patient to find out more. Although it’s sad to say goodbye to their old stomping grounds, the team is still excited the seasons have not canceled.

“We thank Wamego’s Aquatic Center for allowing us to bring our kids over there for an hour and a half, each one of the days,” Marsh said.