Water, water, everywhere

Four-year-old Marcus Lanier of Medford comes up for air in the Rogue Valley Family YMCA's swimming pool. MT file photoBob Pennell

The Rogue Valley Family YMCA in Medford created quite a splash when it opened a $1.8 million aquatic center containing Jackson County's largest indoor swimming pool in June 1993.

The 25-yard-long, eight-lane, 55-foot-wide pool was part of an overall $3.1 million expansion that included replacement of the old YMCA pool built in 1949 that was 20 yards long and 20 feet wide.

Executive Director Brad Russell says the YMCA pool has a capacity of 155,000 gallons, but it has no deep areas for diving or scuba activity as does Southern Oregon University's swimming pool in McNeal Pavilion, where the depth on one end reaches 12 feet.

"YMCAs across the country have a history of aquatics from group swim lessons to fitness, teams and all that stuff," Russell says. "We know we have larger lanes than the other pools around here, but our deck space is pretty small. There's only five to six feet around the edges."

Indoor pools used for competition generally are 25 or 50 yards in length, while outdoor pools are 25 or 50 meters — hence the term "short course" for races measured in yards and "long course" for the metric variety.

Lane width typically runs between 6 and 7 1/2 feet.

Although there is no turnstile or total head count ascribed to the pool, there are breakout numbers from several user groups.

Russell says 1,200 people signed up for swim lessons in 2010, twice as many as in 2008. There are 20 water fitness classes with 20 participants — or 400 people — at any given time. Then there are the high school teams from North Medford, South Medford and Crater that use the pool during the winter season and the year-round Sharks club team for age-group swimmers, adding another 100 regular users.

"That doesn't count our lap and recreational swimmers," Russell says.

While the SOU, Ashland YMCA and Superior Athletic Club pools match the Medford YMCA's length, none of them are as wide.

The largest room containing a swimming pool may well be at the Ramada Inn on Biddle Road, near the north Medford freeway interchange. That pool, however, is really two pools with a roof support column dividing the larger from the smaller. It was built in 1968 when the Holiday Inn opened a convention center.

There are two historical indoor pool footnotes, one in Ashland and one in Medford — both wonders of the local landscape for their time.

On Sept. 8, 1909, the Ashland Mineral Springs and Sanitarium, featuring a natatorium with two pools, was constructed in 1909 where Umpqua Bank and the Ashland Food Co-op stand today. That building, however, was torn down within two decades.

The old Medford Natatorium opened in 1910 on the site now occupied by the Red Lion Hotel.

The Natatorium and Amusement Co. was incorporated on Feb. 4, 1910. The pool was at the heart of a recreation center that included an indoor shooting gallery, billiard hall and movie theater. It was closed when Camp White closed at the end of World War II, and demolition to clear the way for a motel complex began in late 1955.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or email business@mailtribune.com.

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