The cranes came midway through December — to the absolute delight of the Robert J. Wilf Preschool and Kindergarten students, who got to watch the machines putting together the tent for the Kaiserman JCC’s new indoor pool.
“We all just stood there in awe watching these heavy cranes, real construction equipment, picking up these big pieces of manufactured framing and putting it on the deck,” Kaiserman JCC CEO Amy Krulik said.
The JCC opened the doors to its renovated pool on Jan. 27. The pool is now encapsulated in a heated tent, allowing the JCC to keep the pool open year-round for the first time in years.
The structure is 60-by-100 feet and more than 20 feet tall. The inside looks like a venue for a wedding, Krulik said. It’s substantial and has proven itself to hold up to a variety of different weather conditions.
Registration for swim lessons opens for members on Jan. 27 and opens to the community at large on Feb. 6. The JCC also plans to have a community pool party and open house on Feb. 17.
In addition, it will have water exercise classes, as well as men’s-only and women’s-only swim times. It will add programs like an intramural swim team and a lifeguard certification class.
The pool will be open Monday through Thursday from 5:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday from 5:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
In May, the cover will be removed, and the pool will revert to an outdoor pool for the summer. The hours will also be extended. (After the initial construction, switching the cover out between seasonal uses is relatively easy.)
“These are our initial starting hours,” Krulik said. “We’re going to see how this goes.”
Until about five years ago, the JCC had an indoor pool, which offered different programs including a preschool swim program, an aquatics fitness program, special events and pool parties.
A leak in that building’s roof after a winter storm led to the discovery that the entire structure was not up to code. The JCC had to make a decision. It had to construct a new building — a costly project — or tear the building down, leaving an outdoor pool only open during the summers.
After much deliberation, the JCC went with the latter, and 40 percent of its members left.
Krulik is looking forward to seeing many of those faces return.
“It’s incredibly exciting, after five years, to put our pool back into commission and to give people in our community an opportunity to swim year-round,” Krulik said.
In September, Krulik estimated the tent would go up by 2019, but that was a hopeful estimation, she said, especially once it became clear how much work was needed.
She credited Shawn McGrath, the general manager of the project and owner of Quality Coatings and Construction, with the pool opening as early as it did.
“He’s really talented and really patient and was willing to take this leap of faith with us,” Krulik said.
McGrath started working on the tent during the summer. He laid out the groundwork, got the necessary permits and hired contractors, while Krulik handled the tent contractor and the financials.
He and his family are JCC members, where they participate in gymnastics and basketball and make use of the weight room. His son attends kindergarten there as well.
“I pictured a much smaller structure,” before the tent was done, McGrath said. “I pictured something only 13 feet high, with a flat roof. I had a vision, even as I looked at the specs for it. It was really hard to imagine what it would be like until you step inside, and then you realize, ‘Wow, this is a structure.’”
The tent construction started at the beginning of November.
Workers had to dig footers, create concrete weights and erect a frame. The tent needed 28 yards — or three truck loads — of concrete to keep it anchored to the ground.
Then, they had to do the finish work. They added lighting, heat, weather-proofing and more.
Weather was probably the biggest challenge in building the tent, McGrath said, and the week leading up to the opening included some extremes — temperatures ranged from 10 to 59 degrees, and there’s been winds, rain and sunshine — so the JCC has been able to test the durability of the tent in different weather conditions.
It will continue to be a work in progress, Krulik emphasized, especially as the seasons change.
Now, Krulik joked, she might just set up her office on the deck.
“It’s warm and the water is warm, and I just keep thinking, ‘That’s it,’” Krulik said. “I’m going to get out one of the lounge chairs; I’m going to go sit by my pool and relax.”