The state historic preservation office is questioning University of Georgia administrators’ decision to demolish the school’s historic Legion Pool.
University officials say it would cost about $490,000 to renovate the pool in the heart of the UGA campus. They propose to replace it with a $2.6 million pool half as big at the university’s Intramural Fields off College Station Road.
Legion Pool is scheduled to close for the season Aug. 10, perhaps for the last time if the UGA administration’s plans win approval.
University officials have asked the state Board of Regents to approve the demolition at the board’s upcoming August meeting.
Built by the American Legion in 1935, the pool and its adjacent Legion Services building, built in 1936, are eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places as well as the Georgia register.
Now the director of the state’s Historic Preservation Division has asked UGA for more justification as to why they want to rip up Legion Pool.
“The submitted information consists of a cover letter, map, photographs of the pool facility, and narrative describing the property and supporting its demolition,” wrote division director David Crass in a letter dated Tuesday. “The photographs provided do not demonstrate conditions of severe deterioration or existing repair needs.
“The narrative indicates renovation costs of $490,000, but provides no context, including why it has been determined a not cost-effective candidate for repair, and ... how repair costs compare to the cost of the replacement facility.”
UGA also failed to say how the demolition is consistent with university’s master plan, Crass wrote.
According to a future campus map posted on the UGA website, the university’s master campus facilities plan calls for the pool to remain where it is.
The map, drawn in 2008, shows that the pool and an adjacent undeveloped area could one day be surrounded by several small residence halls.
UGA proposes now to turn the pool into green space.
According to UGA Campus Architect Danny Sniff, university planners have no plans to build anything on the site at this time.
UGA does have a couple of large building projects penciled in for the general area where Legion Pool is located – the northwest corner of the intersection of Lumpkin and Baxter streets.
The Board of Regents has given UGA the go-ahead to build a replacement for nearby Bolton Hall, UGA’s largest dining hall. However, Sniff said UGA administrators have not yet decided exactly where the new building will go up.
UGA’s top administrators are also studying a possible pedestrian bridge at the Lumpkin-Baxter intersection, but have not said they plan to actually go ahead with that project.
This is the second time in little more than a year that UGA’s administration has moved to tear down one of the campus’s historic structures despite widespread campus and community opposition.
This spring, demolition crews tore down a Depression-era dormitory, Rutherford Hall, on UGA’s South Campus. Now construction workers have started building a new residence hall that will look like old Rutherford, but bigger.
Meanwhile, nearly 700 people have signed a petition opposing the destruction of Legion Pool, less than four days after the petition began.
“As a child, Legion Pool was the place I learned to swim, and where I spent every day of every summer diving, jumping and playing in the water,” wrote petition signer Andrew Baker of Takoma Park, Md. “Legion Pool represents my childhood, and the childhood of many kids just like me growing up in Athens. ... Please don’t destroy it, or you will be destroying a place that is Athens.”
Another signer, Vicky Tavernier of Athens, wrote, “I think you might want to rethink how hurtful demolishing Legion Pool could be to the community-college rapport. It reeks of apathy towards the very community that cradles the college.”