On May 1, the Mills College Aquatic Center celebrated its 12-year anniversary. Built to replace the Hellman Pool, the Haas Pavilion facility was constructed to meet national athletic standards, thus beginning the College’s competitive swimming program.
At only four lanes wide, the prior pool’s primary competitions were swimming pageants, while the new pool offered a place for competition since it meets National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) requirements. The new facility is also more private in its location near the front entrance to campus — the Hellman Pool was located in Adam’s Plaza in the middle of Rothwell Center.
“If you wanted to swim, you swam in front of everybody at the Tea Shop,” Aquatics and PE Coordinator Carol Berendsen said. “The deepest part of the pool was only nine feet…. There was not a distinct shallow end of the pool.”
The outdoor chlorine swimming pool, located at the Trefethon Aquatic Center, was completed in April 1998 in memory of Trustee Eugene Trefethen.
To put the current pool in its location, one tennis court and the tennis hut were torn down. The soccer field was also shifted away from its former location by the tennis courts to its current location near the road.
Upon finishing the Trefethen Aquatic Center, an unofficial christening took place, according to Berendsen.
“A bottle of Hellman Pool water was put into the pool for continuity,” she said.
Long before this christening, when the pool was nothing but a hole in the ground with no surrounding buildings, Berendsen was hired to start planning programs for the rapidly developing swimming center. 13 years later, her efforts have led to several aquatic classes and activities, including water exercise and fitness swimming.
“Carol does a good job scheduling classes,” said Head Swim Coach Neil Virtue. “Classes get priorities.”
Whether she’s scheduling classes or coordinating swim meets, Berendsen insists that safety is her primary concern.
“Safety is our first interest. We do not allow diving unless it is for a class or a competition,” Berendsen said. “We have been open for 12 years and have never had any serious emergency situations.”