New Mexico Highlands University sophomore Bailee Robinet straightens a flag at the university’s renovated natatorium. Robinet, a political science major from El Paso, Texas, is a certified life guard at the pool.
Renovated HU Natatorium Opens With a Splash Feb. 18
New Mexico Highlands University’s renovated natatorium opens with a splash Feb. 18 from 5 — 8 p.m. when the campus and community can get a look at the pool, and take a dip.
The university’s Office of Campus Life is hosting the natatorium grand opening, which includes light refreshments and music.
The natatorium is at the northwest corner of Baca Avenue and 11th St., west of Perkins Stadium and the field house.
“With the extensive renovation it’s like having a brand-new pool; it’s beautiful right down to the new tile work,” said Kathy Jenkins, who chairs the university’s Department of Exercise and Sport Sciences, and who oversees the natatorium and other sports facilities on campus.
The 12,643-square-foot natatorium, which was built in 1966, got a major facelift, including a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, new lighting and electrical systems, a new roof, and external masonry.
Colorful new tiles spruce up the interior walls of the natatorium, and all the locker rooms and bathrooms were remodeled.
New garage-size-door glass walls on the west side of the pool bring in more natural light and can retract, opening the pool to the outdoors in warm weather. A new walled, landscaped patio area on this side of the pool gives swimmers a chance to catch some rays.
A new hydraulic lift was installed in the pool, giving greater access for those with disabilities.
The natatorium has the only deepwater pool in the area and a new diving board was installed. The depth also makes scuba diving and lifeguard classes possible.
The natatorium renovation project is expected to receive LEED silver certification for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The project incorporates green building practices and sustainability features such as energy and water efficiency, recycling demolition materials, and more.
Even the durable new plastic furniture for the patio and pool deck is made of recycled milk jugs.
State general obligation revenue bonds and matching university funds financed the natatorium renovation.
“People in the community tell me, â€˜I grew up swimming here and I’m really excited to see the changes,'” said Sara Schmalfeldt, the natatorium/pool director. “The natatorium improvements are a good way to get the community more involved with the pool, whether it’s for classes or recreational activities.”
Schmalfeldt is experienced in teaching swimming and lifeguard certification classes, and is certified by the National Swimming Pool Foundation as an aquatic facility operator. She is teaching all the university’s swimming classes for spring semester.
Schmalfeldt also has expertise coordinating pool recreation activities.
“Historically our university swimming pool has been an integral part of the community, where most adults learned to swim and are now bringing their children to learn,” Jenkins said. “We want to build on that by offering additional programming for all ages and interests. Sara has so many good ideas about how to accomplish this.”
Looking ahead, Schmalfeldt aims to eventually start programs like a summer swim league for youth, scuba diving courses for the university and community, American Red Cross community swim classes for youth and adults, and an intramural inner-tube water polo league for university students.
Highlands University students, faculty and staff swim free at the pool with a valid university ID.
For the community, adults swim for $2 and the fee is $1 for youth 17 and under. Children 12 and under must be accompanied by an adult although the adult doesn’t need to swim.
The pool is also offering 12-visit pool passes for adults at $20 and $10 for youth. June/July summer passes will be available at $60 for adults and $40 for youth.
The pool is open Monday — Friday. For details about the spring schedule, including open swim times, go to
Schmalfeldt may be reached at 505-454-3073 or