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Linkletter Natatorium (RG 131)

This is a photograph of the inside of Art Linkletter Natatorium at Springfield College. It appears this photo was taken while in the process of he building being constructed in 1966. Brick can be seen covering the inside, as well as wood laying around and lights hanging from the ceiling.

Linkletter Natatorium

Arthur Gordon Linkletter, otherwise known as Art Linkletter, first learned of the student’s dissatisfaction with the College’s swimming and diving facilities when he was elected to the Springfield College Board of Trustees in 1961.  The McCurdy pool, also known as the “McCurdy bathtub,” had been built a half century earlier and was extremely small.  At the time it was adequate for the College’s 165 male students, but with more than 1,500 male and female undergraduates attending Springfield in 1965, improvements had to be made.  Linkletter came up with the idea of constructing a new swimming and diving facility for the intercollegiate and intramural athletics that could also be used to teach the College’s health, physical education, and recreation programs.  

The proposed cost of this new facility was $850,000 and President Locklin held a press conference to explain all of this to the public in hopes of receiving donations.  Linkletter sold his home in Holmby Hills California for $250,000 and donated this money towards the cost of the project.   Students were swept up in Linkletter’s enthusiasm for the project, and he along with 1,000 raised $25,000 dollars in 1967 during the student “Work Week,” a tradition that went on for many years, funding both the Linkletter Natatorium project as well as other projects. Work Week is considered one of the forerunners to Springfield College’s Humanics Day, started in 1998. A federal grant of $273,278 was also procured for building the natatorium.  Alumni gifts and other sources provided the remainder of the money.

Groundbreaking took place on April 30, 1966.  At the time of its construction, the new building was located right next to the Memorial Field House (Memorial Field House was demolished in 1979).  The natatorium had a graceful steel arch roof, with the arches rising to 45 ft at their peaks. The pool was 169 feet and one inch long x 44 feet wide and was 4 feet deep at the south end and 12 feet, 6 inches deep at the deep end.  It had a movable bulkhead that could shorten and lengthen the pool. At the time, the length of the pool made the natatorium the longest indoor collegiate pool in the East with a movable bulkhead. The Olympic-sized pool was the site of many local, regional, and national championship events. Permanent bleachers could seat 490 spectators, roll-out bleachers could seat 510, and additional seating was provided on the balcony. Other interesting features were two classrooms with underwater picture windows used to allow coaches and instructors visualize and correct swimming technique.  They could do this through the use of underwater speakers.  There was also a closed circuit television system at two underwater and three above water locations to further analyze swimming skills. 

The new facility was named the “Art Linkletter Natatorium,” taking into account Linkletter’s contributions to its development.  The building was dedicated on October 21, 1967. Interestingly, the former Swimming coach, Charles E. “Red” Silvia and Linkletter raced each other in the new pool.  They each swam one length (169 feet, 1 inch).  Linkletter ended up beating Silvia by a tenth of a second, and it was later discovered that Linkletter had trained for three months prior to the event.  

In 2008 the new Wellness and Recreation Complex was opened. The building includes the Wellness Center, Field House, Athletic Training/ Exercise Science facility, and 160,560 square feet of instructional, athletic, and recreational space adjoining the Physical Education Complex and the Art Linkletter Natatorium.  The Art Linkletter Natatorium is incorporated into the physical structure of the Wellness and Recreation Complex.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

This collection documents the construction, opening, and the running of the Linkletter Natatorium. The collection contains general information, news articles, correspondence, planning documents, photographs, slides, and design drawings created by the architects, Munson and Mallis, Inc.  The collection contains many memos, letters, printed materials, speeches, film, and planning documents on the dedication of the Linkletter Natatorium. Of particular interest are pictures of Art Linkletter, the namesake of the building, including pictures of the famous race between him and Charles E. Silvia, long-time men’s swimming and diving coach. Also of note are some interesting pictures of the emptied pool, including a marketing shop of students pictured swimming at the bottom of the pool.