A sky-blue vinyl dome was inflated in about 30 minutes over Claudius Crozet Park’s pool September 27—after a couple of days of staging and preparation—bringing to reality the long-cherished goal of having a year-round swimming facility in western Albemarle.
The dome’s appearance on the park’s skyline is the culmination of a $400,000 community fund-raising effort, most of which was contributed by local residents.
About 20 volunteers, many stalwarts of that campaign, turned out for the dome raising, which requires a substantial amount of muscle-power. Many wanted to be part of the raising so that they have a better understanding of how to remove the dome come May, when the pool will be open-air for the summer.
“There is a ton of excitement about this in the community,” said Crozet YMCA aquatic director Cameron Burr. “We have been looking forward to this.”
“You’ve got the Cadillac of domes,” said Steve Stottlemeyer, a foreman for Yeadon Fabric Structures of Ontario, Canada, who supervised the installation. He installs about 35 domes a year, he said, and he can remember talking about the possibility of a dome for Crozet pool as long ago as 1992. “This dome is going to have a big impact in this community,” he predicted.
“The cover will fade with time,” he said. “But it will keep a clean appearance. Eventually the sun eats up the vinyl.” The dome is 30 feet high once inflated.
Lights were suspended from the ceiling, as were cables that will prevent the dome from settling into the water and becoming too heavy to lift if the power should fail for so long that the air pressure is lost.
The dome system includes a fairly large but surprisingly quiet blower system. Once inflated, the dome needs very little additional pressure to remain up. Four underground propane tanks supply fuel to the blower and heat the air so that condensation does not form on the ceiling of the dome.
“If the air inside is five degrees warmer than the water, the dome will stay in balance,” Stottlemeyer explained. “It will stay up on just a whiff of air from the blower. You can stand in front of the blower and have a conversation.”
A revolving door, an air lock, was installed to keep the air pressure under the dome from being lost into the hallway that connects the pool to the fitness building and its locker rooms. The hall is also enclosed in glass so long as the dome is up. The dome has two other emergency doors.
The dome comes in two halves that are bolted together with dozens of metal plates, two bolts to each plate. The metal doorways are attached to the dome in the same way. Velcro flaps protect all the metal plate joints from the weather.
A thick vinyl tarp was stretched across the pool first, allowing as many as 30 people to “walk on water” to perform the installation.
Once the halves were joined, the dome’s edges are locked in a perimeter anchor channel by wedging in two-by-fours. The channel was mounted in a four-foot-deep concrete footing to prevent the dome from being lifted up by high winds. The corners were set first for the sake of making adjustments easier.
“This is not going to be easy to fold this up,” observed Karl Pomeroy, one of the volunteers. “It’s going to take a team.” Many of the volunteers who worked on pulling the vinyl to its proper orientation worried about handling the weight of the dome.
At some pools, to save money, swim team parents have been trained to do the dome installation and how to properly break it down and store it so that it can be re-inflated with the least effort.
Denny Blank, CEO of Piedmont YMCA, which now manages daily operations at Crozet pool, said 710 members have signed up so far. The Y’s goal was 500 by year’s-end. “The lion’s share of those are family memberships,” he added. The Y now employs 60 people at Crozet pool, he said.
Programming at the pool will begin Oct. 8. PT Plus, the Kluge Rehabilitation Center and The Lodge at Old Trail are all intending to use the pool, Blank said. Swim teams from Western Albemarle High School, the Miller School and the Field School will also be using it.
The pool will be open from 5:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays, and from noon until 6 p.m. on Sundays.
Crozet park board president Robbie Maupin said, “We’re happy to see it done and we’re looking forward to the community having it to use. We want to say thank you to the community for their support, thanks to the Y for their operational know-how, and many thanks to Barton Malow, who did the construction.”