Doing Their Civic Duty

By Russ Munyan | Sep 15, 2007
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Labor Day and the end of summer bring changes every year in the Midwest … the colors and fragrance of fall, students returning to school, and, for many communities, the end of swimming fun and exercise. But for the community of Rocky River, Ohio, the change this year is that there will not be a change in continued access to a community aquatics center.

Rocky River is an affluent professional community nine miles west of Cleveland on the southern shore of Lake Erie. It is home to about 20,000 residents and 1,290 businesses. The Rocky River Parks & Recreation Department operates the Don Umerley Civic Center, a multipurpose building featuring an exercise facility with a double gym, elevated running track, cardiovascular and free weight equipment, locker rooms, and community rooms for rent.

During the summer of 2007, the Parks & Recreation Department added a 42,000-square-foot expanded fitness and indoor aquatic center onto the outside corner of the original L-shaped civic center. The addition almost doubles the size of the original 2001 facility to an estimated 80,000 square feet.

The new indoor swim complex portion will include a four-lane lap pool with a diving area, a two-lane lap pool, water vortex with zero-depth entry, separation wall, small and large water slides, spa, lazy river, locker rooms and a main pool. The fitness center portion includes offices, locker rooms, childcare and teen center areas on the first floor, and a large open area for workout equipment, aerobics rooms, additional office space, restrooms and space for lease on the second floor.

At the 2005 groundbreaking ceremony, William Knoble, Rocky River’s mayor at the time, stated that the biggest and probably most popular addition would be the natatorium: “The success of [the existing Parks & Recreation Department] outdoor pool is so great that everyone wants to carry over that swimming lifestyle indoors,” he said, according to a local newspaper.

The expansion concept had begun several years prior when a mayor-appointed citizens’ committee recommended the idea; the committee’s informal polling showed city residents wanted both an indoor pool and municipal fitness center so much that they would vote for a bond issue increasing their property taxes. Rocky River residents proved the committee right when they voted in November 2004 for an $8.4 million bond issue to fund a Civic Center addition.

In spring 2005, the City Council approved a $439,000 contract with Cleveland architectural firm Brandstetter, Carroll and Zofcin to design the addition. The city broke ground in May 2006, and the project remains generally on schedule, with an opening anticipated for late summer 2007.

The city of Rocky River selected Infinity Construction Co. Inc., of Warrensville Heights, Ohio, as the general contractor. Infinity chose proven partner D.E. Williams Electric Inc. of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, as the electrical contractor. D.E. Williams has worked on numerous Infinity Construction and city of Rocky River projects, though this is the first time all three have been together on a single project.

“We’ve established a good relationship with the city and Infinity on this project,” said Ted Williams, president of D.E. Williams.

Williams’ father, Dan E. Williams, started the electrical construction company in 1952. He grew the company over the early decades from a small to a mid-size company. Today, the firm has annual revenues between $6.5 million and $7.5 million and employs a staff of about 60. It focuses primarily on commercial, institutional and industrial electrical work.

Now 90, Dan Williams has been out of the day-to-day operations for about 10 years, but he remains the chairman of the corporation. Ted’s brother Doug is the vice president, and Doug’s son, Chad, works in purchasing and warehousing.

Built for fun and safety

“With the exception of the pool, this is a fairly straightforward project,” said job foreman and company veteran Duane Staff of this slab-on-grade block building with PVC conduit throughout.

“The preexisting Civic Center had 800 amps of service, but with the new addition, the entire facility requires 2,000 amps. So we fed the new main electrical feed with the 2,000 amps, and then interrupted the current in the old portion and rerouted the 800 amps that it would need from the new main,” he said.

The pool area, however, includes challenges that are not typical with dry areas. The pool is stainless steel with a concrete floor, with extensive aluminum rigid conduit throughout the area and in the filtration room. Building specifications call for electrical devices to be rated NEMA 4X in order to provide protection against corrosion from splashed and hose-directed water.

The pool lighting system includes surface-mount strip lights, plus a Lightruss overhead lighting system by SPI Lighting of Mequon, Wis. SPI Lighting systems all are custom-designed according to parameters provided by the project owners, architects and engineers, and are consistent with standards of the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA).

“It is almost like a stage light system,” Staff said. The approximately 500-foot-long system combines a modular truss support system and lighting modules around and across the pool area. Once installed, the illumination system will have 80 prewired and preaimed lamps that use Mate-N-Lok electrical connectors. The lamps are mounted in 76 preconfigured and interconnecting 8- to 10-foot sections that are ceiling-suspended and designed for easy contractor installation. The all-aluminum system is especially suited for natatoriums because they evenly disperse indirect light that eliminates surface glare on the water to make it easier, safer and more comfortable to see.

Of course, the bonding requirements in the pool area are greater than those for dry areas, requiring Williams Electric to bond all metal that is within 5 feet of any of the pools or wet areas, including rebar, handrails, I-beams, metal conduit or any other steel or aluminum. In addition to the bonding, Williams Electric installed two locations with automatic emergency electrical disconnect stop switches to the pool area: one in the lifeguard station and the other at the top of the slide.

In all, the Williams Electric crew installed 26 types of light fixtures throughout the addition from a variety of manufacturers. Square D supplied most of the electrical supplies.

The city of Rocky River will subsequently install the low-voltage systems, such as telecommunications, security/access control and audiovisual. The only low-voltage system that is part of the Williams Electric contract is the SimplexGrinnell fire alarm system. Williams is installing the cabling and devices for the system, after which SimplexGrinnell will program and certify the system.

Given Rocky River’s existing outdoor water recreation area, the Infinity Construction team had the luxury of the summer months to complete the indoor swim area. The planners’ intent was for the indoor facility to be operational by the time the outdoor facility closed for the season. The non-pool/commons areas were to be turned over in early August, with the pool area open for use three weeks after that.

National recognition

In December 2005, Sports Illustrated magazine selected Rocky River’s Parks and Recreation Department as one of eight national winners in its Good Sports Community of the Year Program. Communities were judged on their ability to promote positive values, proper skill development, parent involvement and positive coaching methods; they also were reviewed on inclusiveness of play and community involvement in youth sports.

Sports Illustrated described Rocky River as “a bustling sports burg,” and named the existing Don Umerley Civic Center first in the community’s list of recreational features and offerings. Parks and Recreation director Mike Patterson was quoted in the local press, “We do a great job with our youth sports programs. Not only with the quality, but the quantity of programs we are able to offer when you look at the variety of what is out there. I’m very proud of our staff that works hard to make the sports program the best it can be.”

The expanded Don Umerley Civic Center will allow Rocky River to both continue and expand on its nationally recognized community recreation programs. The new facility, built with quality construction and electrical contracting, will be an integral part in serving both youth and adult members of the community for generations to come. EC

MUNYAN is a freelance writer in the Kansas City, Kan., area, specializing in business writing and telecommunications. He can be reached at




About The Author

Russ Munyan is a freelance writer in Olathe, Kan., specializing in technical and business writing. He can be reached at





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