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Pool project near completion

The third and almost final step in a complete renovation of the L.E. Berger Pool will set up the community for 20 more years of indoor swimming enjoyment.

That's according to the pool's director, Marsha Dahl, as she watched the finishing touches come together on one of the largest renovations the West Fargo School District has put in place over the last five years.

"The pool itself is running well, and has been," Dahl said. "But this is a project that has really made the facility more efficient. I think we'll be in good shape for years to come, but it's up to us to keep on top of it with some changes and tweaks every few years, instead of waiting to do it all over again."

The pool, which has served the community for nearly 30 years, started its renovation with the complete resurfacing of the basin, as crews laid tile to replace a then-cracking concrete floor.

Part of that tile floor was also replaced in this phase of the renovation, as permafrost and the ever-shifting earth underneath the pool caused buckling in the northwest corner of the basin.

Phase II called for the installation of a Pool Pak system a couple of years ago, which is a water and air-handling system designed specifically for indoor pool facilities. That was completed two years ago.

This summer, crews have gutted the locker room and restroom areas of the building, resurfaced the pool deck, and filled in the kiddy pool that was outside, creating a sun deck to the south of the pool building.

"We could have done a lot of this sooner, but to shut the pool down completely for a year just wasn't in the cards," Pete Diemert, West Fargo School District Building and Grounds Director, said. "You have to have your season for the kids. This way, by breaking it up, we were still able to get a lot done to make this place last another 30 years."

Only one thing is missing, Dahl joked. The facility needs, but will never get, two more swimming lanes.

While still two lanes short of an Olympic pool, the West Fargo pool can host meets like EDC and regular season events. However, without eight lanes, no "big" events, like the state swim meets, can come to West Fargo.

"We're doing what we can to make this facility better, and that good," she said.

West Fargo swimmers will be happy to know that the facility is now handicap accessible, and more handicap friendly, thanks to the renovation. Two restrooms have been converted into handicap restrooms with showers and lockers, complete with showers and benches.

The boys' and girls' locker rooms are smaller, but have a more open feel to them. They'll also have a safer surface on the floor, to decrease the risk of injury.

The pool deck has also been resurfaced. And, thanks to storage areas back in the old locker-room areas, the clutter has been removed from the poolside area.

A new air-handling system for the locker room areas has also been put in place.

"There are times you can hardly breathe in those locker rooms with the humidity," Tom Gentzkow, School Board Member, said when the renovation's third phase was introduced. "This will help a lot. The new air-handling system in the pool area has been great."

Visually, the building will also be more appealing. Temporary doors have been removed that opened to the south and west sides of the building. Some of those fiberglass portals have been replaced by brick, others by frost-free glass. Dahl said the improvements should make the building brighter, and will decrease the amount of fog and frost that often built up on the old windows.

"They're permanent, where the old ones were sliding doors. No air can really seep through, so we should have a lot less condensation. That will help bring more outside light in," she said.

A new bulkhead (divider) for the pool is also on its way, as it splits the diving pool from the main swimming area, and also sets distances for racing. The current bulkhead is showing signs of age, as paint has been worn away and rust is appearing around the vents.

"That should be the last step," Dahl said.

Members of the West Fargo High School and club swim teams have helped out this summer, cleaning the basin and scrubbing the pool deck once construction was complete. The pool will be filled and ready to go later this month, as the high school girls' swim team reports for its first practice on Aug. 14.