Sunday, January 23, 2011

Reader Ruminates Over Rumors

Dear SP-EYE,
In reading your post about the baseball bleachers and dugouts, I had a few thoughts. I do not have all the information, so i thought I'd run them by someone who has had an eye on Sun Prairie longer than I have. I would appreciate any corrections of a factual or logical nature to help me get my head around this.

When I read about the bleachers, I was reminded of a couple of other things I have heard in the past year that follow in the same vein. One incontrovertible case of rectal-cranial inversion involves the swimming pool (actually more than one, but one at a time). They plan for no pool, then pool, six lanes, then eight lanes, and in the process it seems they never talked to anyone who has ever been to a swim meet. As a result, we end up with room for a tremendous swimming tournament, provided we don't want spectators.

In the haste to put up that great big pool they forgot to include a door! Next thing you know, somebody who once saw a swim meet in a movie happens by and says "huh, the swim meet I saw had like...people watching it...and...a door or something for spectators". OOPS!!! Eco-friendly light bulb comes on!

To fix this problem, we put in a new hallway. Because it is bond money (and because competitive bidding=bad; relationships=good), the work needs to be done as a modification to the existing contract, and we end up paying something north of $160k for a hole-in-the-wall that would have been there in the first place if someone on the design team had been paying attention or if (*gasp*) we had looked at multiple architectural bids. The builder knew we were a captive audience with a critical need and a checkbook, and I am sure the contract modification was priced accordingly.

Another comment I heard in the past year was from a parent of a child in another district, who had attended a swim meet at the Sun Prairie pool. She was impressed with all the pretty concrete, and liked the initial look of the great big pool. What she didn't like were the bleachers, which she commented were unlike any she had ever seen before (and she had run multiple kids through decades of swim meets, so she is not the "oh, my back" type...she is the "@$$ in the car with 3 tired kids at 5 am off-to-the-pool" type). The bleachers were extremely low to the floor and uncomfortable. As we discussed the fact that the bigger pool was not in the original plan, she wondered if the torture-rack, pants-on-the-ground bleachers were a result of the design change that left less floor space. It'd be interesting to track how the bleachers were designed and purchased in relation to the pool.

Mistakes happen. Hopefully, when there is big money at stake you have many smart people look at designs so that big mistakes don't happen. You have professionals give you their best ideas, and you select the best one. Athletes run faster when there is someone in the lane next to them, and lack of competition hurts the final result. I bet architecture is no different.

We spend too much money on facilities to hire someone who doesn't know that baseball diamonds need dugouts and large swim meets need a way to get to the pool area without a mom having to drag the 4-year-old little brother of the next Mark Spitz through the woman's locker room to get from the spectator area to the overpriced snacks.

We also need to look at these projects big picture, so that the architect doesn't push it off on the excavator who pushes it off on the concrete guy who pushes it off on the bricklayer who pushes it off on the installer who chops/adds a little to the legs of the bleachers to make it fit in the allotted space. That's how I built my secret clubhouse when I was nine, but that was a clubhouse and I was nine. These are grown-ups spending tens of millions of dollars of other people's money, and those other people deserve more for their money.
SP-EYE responds...

If you climb into the WayBack Machine, we can tell you there was an Ad Hoc Pool Committee.  Said Committee 
drew up a great pool plan with all the trimmings for a reasonable amount.  It wasn't quite WIAA top notch competition worthy, but it was a nice pool. All that got tossed aside for "the good of the [high school] referendum".
About a year  or so later the board resurrected the plan, but now it would cost considerably more.  That would put the total referendum over $100M, so the board started snipping.  They upped the lanes to 8, but trimmed down the spectator area and cut out the original hallway that was planned.   You know what happened after that.

The end game was to come up with a plan that was $3.5M or less.  That was deemed the magic "approvable" number.  For the record, there were several pool people in the group, at least three who were quite knowledgeable about pools and swim meets.  Sadly a committee of 20 was down to about 4 people at the end. 

In the immortal words of somebody, "It is what it is".