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Rec Pool opens after delay, welcomes annual cardboard canoe race

Four men paddling across a swimming pool in homemade cardboard boats.
The Campus Rec Pool reopened with a cardboard canoe race.
Tyler Duran / The Daily Princetonian

After 19 months of closure and a delay due to “unforeseen circumstances” related to the shipment of materials to the construction site, the Campus Recreation Pool at Dillon Gymnasium reopened on Feb. 16. This marks another step towards the completion of phase one of Campus Recreation’s renovation project, which includes the renovation of the Class of 1986 Fitness and Wellness Center, which opened on Jan. 29, and new athletics facilities in the Meadows Neighborhood. The redesigned pool will allow for the return of open rec swim hours, Princeton Swim Club, and Campus Rec-sponsored activities, and prompted the revival of the annual Cardboard Canoe Race.

During the pool’s renovation, DeNunzio Pool — which is next to Jadwin Gymnasium — expanded its hours to accommodate all students who wanted to swim, including the Princeton Club Swim team. The availability of open swim hours on campus were reduced during the Dillon pool renovations, as DeNunzio typically serves as a space exclusively for the varsity swim and dive teams.


Renovations to the Rec Pool include the installation of a new filtration system, ceiling, lighting fixtures, tiling around the pool, grout between the pool tiles, and a new bulkhead between the wading pool and the lap pool. The next phase of renovations will introduce elevator access to the pool and other parts of Dillon Gym, making the gym facilities “more like 80 percent accessible.” The lobby and the two group fitness rooms above the lobby will remain inaccessible to wheelchair users.

Jessica Ward, Senior Associate Director of Athletics for Campus Rec, highlighted the importance of the improvements made to gym accessibility in an interview with The Daily Princetonian.

“It was always really hard to explain … to someone, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t get you to the pool,’” she said.

The re-opening of the Rec Pool has also allowed for expanded programming. After spring break, children’s swim lessons will begin, taught by students hired as swim instructors — a new campus job offering. Ward also detailed Campus Rec’s plans to offer swim lessons and “dive-in moves” to students and staff, as well as other efforts to bring people to the pool “even if you’re not a swimmer.”  

Princeton Club Swim, which practiced in the Rec Pool team before its closure, has mixed feelings about their return to Dillon from DeNunzio. “In some ways [it’s] made our practice times a bit easier because it’s closer to where most people live,” Club Swim President Maddie Machado ’25 told the ‘Prince.’

Machado expressed her concerns about scheduling conflicts with open swim hours and varsity teams’ use of the Rec Pool.


“It’s been a bit of a puzzle to get times that are not crazy late at night,” she said. As a result, the team has had to reduce practice from five to four days per week.

Overall, the hours at the pool available for students to swim have increased. The open hours include 6:30–10:30 a.m. on weekdays and 1–4 p.m. and 5–7 p.m. during the weekend. On Sundays, there is a 45-minute block reserved for women’s only swim from 12–12:45 p.m. Following the opening of the Rec Pool, DeNunzio’s recreational swim hours have been reduced to Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m.

The re-opening of the pool prompted the resurrection of the annual Cardboard Canoe Race, marking the first time since 2019 that the race was held without pandemic mitigation procedures. 25 pairs of students formed teams to create and race a cardboard canoe, competing for the fastest time, best boat design, best capsize, and best costume. 

The costume theme for this year was dynamic duos, inspiring participants to dress as a myriad of characters. Costumes included Donkey and Shrek, Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, and the winners of the best costume competition, Spiderman and Doctor Octopus. 

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Two of the teams were sibling duos, each made up of a first year and senior who had participated in the race in a previous year. One of the teams, Joseph Roberts ’27 and Christopher Roberts ’24, received extra support from their father Chris Roberts, who was visiting from Outer Banks, N.C. to watch the race. 

The winning team for fastest time was made up of first-year students Manuel Garcia San Millan ’27 and Ian Liu ’27. Their boat, “The Spanish Junk Armada,” consisted of a single flat sheet of cardboard that they used as a kickboard to swim their way to victory. 

In a post-race interview, San Millan told the ‘Prince’ that his team “went into the cardboard boat race thinking, ‘What [does] the rule set actually say?’” He explained that there were no requirements to “paddle with a paddle.” 

While their boat did not break any current rules, San Millan added that he was told a rule will be implemented next year to prevent their strategy.

“I’m happy that I have a rule named after me now. It’s a funny experience,” he joked.

Vitus Larrieu is a News contributor and head Podcast editor for the ‘Prince.’

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