Three Men and a Total Station

January 31, 2006
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An international competitor allows the Schneider survey crew to perform their work prior to the FINA championships.


There's a first and a last time for everything. In October 2004, the FINA Swimming World Cup Championships were held in North America for the first time. World-class swimmer Jenny Thompson swam her last swim during that competition, saying goodbye to a very notable career in the sport. And, for the first time, the constructors of the training and competition pools met the challenge of a build within a short 10-day timeframe. It was a race against time for all participants.

Dick Levering operates a Trimble 5603 from the Conseco Fieldhouse seating area.

Laying Out the Pool

Since 1993, the FINA Swimming World Cup Champion-ships have set a new stage for swim competitions in 25 m pools. From its introduction in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, the FINA initiative has taken swimmers to five continents for the chance to succeed previous record-setters.

Before the gun went off in October 2004's competition in Indianapolis, a world record had already been set-a construction record, that is. Indianapolis-based Schneider Corporation, on contract through general contractor Shiel Sexton (Indianapolis) set the record for layout and as-built services of the two pools used in the competition. The previous record for such construction was five weeks; Schneider did it in less than two. Dan Newberry, project manager with Shiel Sexton, explains why Schneider was contracted for the job: "We had worked with Schneider before, and we knew we had to have somebody that was very capable because we were dealing with hundredths of a foot." He continues, "Typically in construction we don't build to those tolerances. But there were going to be world records set in that pool, so we couldn't have just anybody out there telling us how big it was."

"Schneider has completed many challenging projects as well as precise building control hundreds of times," says Bruce Strack, PLS, survey implementation manager, "but we had never been involved in such a fast-track, international event such as this. We knew we could do it though, because we had the proper equipment, the experienced personnel and the flexibility to be there when they needed us at any time of the day or night."

Conseco Fieldhouse, home of the NBA Indiana Pacers and the WNBA Indiana Fever, was the stage for the international swimming competition. With the swimming events beginning October 7 and other events occupying the Fieldhouse through September 20, Schneider's Dick Levering, Brian Fulford and John Kantner set out on September 21 to perform the layout of the competition and practice pools. The framework for the pools, consisting of 182 stainless steel panels and 15,000 sq ft of vinyl membranes arrived in August. The framework was attached to 38 8' x 13' precast concrete forms, each weighing 13,000 pounds. In early September, contractors began piecing together more than 2,000 ft of piping for the filtration system. The 25 m-long pool was 25 yds wide, 2 m deep, 7 ft high, and took up 6,151 sq ft of space in Conseco Fieldhouse. About 475,000 gallons of water filled the six-lane training pool and the eight-lane competition pool.

While the basketball court floor to the Fieldhouse was being removed to expose the concrete floor, Levering (chief of parties), Fulford (instrument operator) and Kantner (director of field services), began laying out the pool. Shiel Sexton's Newberry says, "They were key in taking what we had in our drawings and putting it on the floor of the arena. If the pool had been laid out wrong, it may not have fit." Levering and Fulford used a Trimble (Sunnyvale, Calif.) 5603 reflectorless total station to square up and offset the concrete walls of the pool. Schneider was asked not to set or scribe anything on the floor of Conseco Fieldhouse, so they set masking tape on the floor and marked measurements with pencil to establish the corners; lines of the walls were projected into the seating area of Conseco Fieldhouse. With the competition pool laid out square and to the proper dimensions, this portion of the project was complete. The building of the pool and deck then began.

Brian Fulford prepares to make final lane measurements.

Assuring Accuracy

Schneider returned to the Fieldhouse on September 26 to measure the still empty pool. Shiel Sexton wanted to verify that the pool was square and would register the proper distance of 25 m. The three-man crew confirmed that the concrete frame of the pool was indeed square and the distances measured across the pool were slightly over 25 m, allowing for the timing pads to be installed. These measurements gave the go-ahead to the Indianapolis Fire Department to begin filling the pool.

Schneider returned on October 6, the day before the competition began, to once again confirm the proper distance of 25 m. "Our measurements were to confirm that the distances were accurate," Strack says. "This was crucial to assure that any records being set were truly for the distance they were supposed to be." By this time, the timing pads had been installed on all eight lanes of the competition pool and the pool was completely filled with water. Levering and Fulford located the end of each lane of the pool to confirm the proper distance. Each lane was found to be within a centimeter of the required 25 m with a maximum difference between lanes of 8 mm. "It was a bit of a challenge to re-create the exact same locations at each end of each lane prior to the water being pumped in and after the water had been pumped in," Levering says. "We overcame this challenge by establishing key control points on all four sides of the pool in the seating areas. Most of the time, I had to straddle the seats in order to operate the total station."

Swimmers began to train for the competition at 6:30 a.m. Monday, Oct. 4, creating yet another obstacle for the Schneider crew. "The participants of the swimming championships were practicing almost immediately after the pool was filled," Levering says. "This included participants from all over the world. The language barrier was quite a challenge at times. Some swimmers and coaches were not sure why we were standing behind them holding a large pole with a spear on the end of it. We were getting in their way quite a bit." At this point, the crew decided to use the reflectorless feature of the Trimble 5603. The feature allowed them to have control offset from the pool area. Using Trimble's proprietary Direct Reflex (DR) feature, they were able to locate the ends of each lane without having to hold a rod at the end of each lane.

Setting Records

The layout and as-built of the pools was a race against time for Schneider, just as the competition itself was for the swimmers. Less than 20 hours later, the first heat had begun. Schneider's employees felt confident that their services provided an accurate pool for the competition and verified that the records were legitimate.

"If the pool had not been the right length, we would have lost a lot of credibility-not just [our companies] but the town of Indianapolis and maybe even the United States would have been mocked," Newberry says, noting that heads of international associations attended the event.

"The most rewarding part of the job was probably just being involved with such an international event," Strack says. "The FINA Swimming Championships are about as big as the Olympics to swimmers. It was also very exciting to talk to and be within inches of many famous athletes that we had watched in the Olympics and idolized, athletes like Michael Phelps, Amanda Beard, Ian Crocker, Natalie Coughlin and Lindsay Benko. It was very rewarding to know that we laid out and confirmed that the pool was the correct length while world records were being set."

Click to www.worldswim2004.com to view a timeline of the pool construction and the "Time Lapse Pool Construction" video courtesy of Pacers, Sports & Entertainment Inc. and www.ConsecoFieldhouse.com.

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