Story of Two Champions Behind CSU’s Fast Pool

Most people know why The Robert F. Busbey Natatorium was way ahead of its time when completed in 1972 (big gutters, bright lights, integrated diving well, no windows, etc.).  Here’s “the rest of the story”.

The CSU pool made big news when it opened in 1973 simply because it was, well, BIG! While not proven (yet), the pool was also VERY FAST.VanDijk-Pool Internal_resize

A few years later the NCAA made the following pronunciation after 16 NCAA records were shattered during the 1977 Division I Championships held in our pool: “The greatest swimmers in the fastest pool at the greatest meet in history”.  Our pool was now OFFICIALLY  v e r y   f a s t.

When the pool was dedicated as “The Robert F. Busbey Natatorium” in 1999 it was still considered one of the fastest five pools in the US. There were several reasons our pool was (and still is !) so fast:VanDijk-Pool Layout_resize

  • Its big, wide gutters keep the water smooth
  • The deep water in the competition end of the pool, no separate diving well, make for fast swimming
  • The lights are designed with a special “competition mode” for extra brightness
  • There are no windows in the pool which keep the lighting consistent and reduced distracting glare

VanDijk-Pool Section_resizeSo, how did this all come about?

The simple answer: Bob Busbey was ahead of his time in pool design thinking, and knew Peter van Dijk who was an outstanding architect with the ability to convert big, new ideas into practical reality.  The Robert F. Busbey Natatorium, located in the CSU Physical Education building, was the result of a collaboration between these two champions.VanDijk-Pool External_resize

How they met, and what lead to their partnership to build the pool leads to “the rest of the story”.

Bob and Peter attended the AAU National Championships in Columbus Ohio in 1946.  They were both in the hotel lobby waiting for room assignments. Bob was from Fenn College, Peter from the New York Athletic Club.  Neither had roommates so they decided to room together.

Years later when Bob was looking for an architect for the new CSU pool he knew Peter’s office was in Cleveland.  Bob ask Peter if he’d like to build “ a big fast pool”; Peter said yes and, well, the rest is history as they say.

Peter, now 86, has been a Masters Swimmer for 40 years.  He has 50+ National Championships in Freestyle and Backstroke.  He is the winner of 17 Gold Medals in Masters World Championship competitions.  And he’s still swimming with O*H*I*O Master Swim Club, most recently winning  4 Gold Medals at the 2014 Montreal World Championships last AUGUST.

Bob was also a champion  – Fenn’s first All-American  (’48 & ’49) and four-sport athlete in swimming, baseball, fencing and track. And five-time Highlander Class National Sailing Champion. He also won the 50 and 100 freestyle at that AAU Championship meet back in ’46.

VanDijk-Original Plans_resizeRegards and thanks to Peter van Dijk who literally “wrote the book” on The Robert F. Busbey Natatorium and provided the pictures you see here.

Dave G, along with Wally, Joe, Jim, Jim, and Tom for the CSU Swimming and Diving Heritage Project

In the splash zone:

What’s YOUR story – about you, teammates (well, maybe not all the stories) or coaches (please be a little kind OK)?

Here’s three easy ways to share them:

4 comments on “Story of Two Champions Behind CSU’s Fast Pool

  1. Just how fast is the BUSBEY pool???? Well, I can verify that in the spring of 1973, my Cleveland State room mate & I had watches in hand along with several other “live” witness/attendees & although the current NCAA Division l
    MEN’S 50 yard freestyle is an 18.37 there was at least one person that covered said distance in 16.2 seconds, bettering today’s current mark by better than 2 full seconds. Who was it & why was it not certified??
    1974 Men’s team captain, Jim Starrett was the swimmer, verified by Kent Kirchner, BUT there were only 2 watch times(3 are required even back then) & I ran on the bottom of the unfilled pool/ true story.

  2. so many great memories of Bob Busbey, Peter Vandijk, and the world famous Busbey Natatorium on the campus of Cleveland State University. For starters, the 1975 NCAA’s where the first sub 50 was broken by Joe Bottom of USC and the first sub 15 minute mile by Casey Converse. Both swims viewed by the only sport show on television ( ABC Wide World of Sports) by 50 million viewers and 4,000 spectator,participants,officials etc. at the Natatorium. Fastest 25 yard pool ever built. Hope you will share your memories too!

  3. I have attend all the NCAA meets at CSU and by far the most exciting is 1977. The excitement of Casey Converse in the mile was unreal. Records in every event. First time under 20 sec in 50, first under 44 in the 100 and it just goes on and on.

    Tennessee coming in and demanding changes because of diving which still exist today, just easier.

    Posting all records so the next day when everyone cam in they were there to see.

    Joe Bottom going under the trailing wave in the 50 and everyone else getting caught in it. Joe lurched ahead by a body length or so it seemed.

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