Before the Ramsey Student Center was constructed in 1995, University of Georgia students swam at two lesser-known, historical pools in the basement of the Marine Sciences Department building.
“I don’t know if it’s still there or not, but there was a pool in the basement of Marine Sciences,” said Harvey Humphries, senior associate head coach for UGA’s men’s and women’s swim teams. “Back then, it was women’s [physical education], so the [P.E.] classes were taught there or in Stegeman Hall.”
Stegeman, Humphries said, was similar to Ramsey. There were basketball courts, two racquetball courts and a small weight room, in addition to classrooms.
“The first pool built [at UGA] was Stegeman pool. It is underneath what is now the Tate Center,” Humphries said.
Associate Research Scientist for UGA’s Center for Applied Isotope Studies Scott Noakes handled the Marine Sciences pool for a decade and said it dates back to the 1930s. The art-deco pool, however, is still intact and complete with a diving board.
But the Bulldogs' original pool was more than just a place to cool off — Humphries said the Stegeman pool was used as a training facility by the United States Navy in 1939 to prepare for World War II.
“They would climb up the ladders [to the catwalks] and jump off. The catwalks were supposed to simulate the height of the deck of the ship from the water,” he said. “We hung ropes from [the catwalks] and our athletes climbed ropes to the top in their bathing suits and back down for part of the training.”
Humphries said Stegeman Hall’s pool was one of the fastest pools of its time. A “fast pool” refers to turbulence created by swimmers’ waves. In a deeper pool, the waves go to the bottom and take longer to dissipate, whereas in a shallower pool the waves bounce back up, creating more turbulence.
“It was an interesting pool,” Humphries said. “Some of the fastest meets were done in that pool. There were American records set; NCAA [records] were broken there in the [1970s]. Billy Forrester — who was an Olympic bronze medalist — we watched him break the American record in the 200 butterfly there when I was swimming.”
Brian Binder, department head and associate professor of marine sciences, said Stegeman was used by more people than just swimmers.
“This used to be the Women’s P.E. building. That’s why dance is attached,” he said. “The department moved in around 1997. For a while we were intermingled with dance. We were teaching our lectures in the big gym. There was a big gym and locker rooms in the basement.”
However, parquet floors are all that remain of the former basketball courts in the dance building. For some, stepping foot into the Marine Sciences’ pool and dance studios is a step back in time.
“For the most part, no one knows about the pool. Time has stopped here,” Noakes said.