The McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion at Ohio State University (OSU), which is considered one of the most reputable competition pools and diving wells in the nation, is home to the varsity men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams, as well as the varsity synchronized swimming team. From the spectator seating to the temperature of the pools, the facility was specifically designed and customized to host competitive aquatic events.

Located in the heart of the campus, the Pavilion is part of OSU’s Recreation and Physical Activity Center facility complex. It consists of the Mike Peppe Natatorium and the Ron O’Brien Diving Well, which collaboratively hold more than 1.5 million gallons of water.

A successful retile of about half of the facility in 2015 sparked the decision in May of 2019 to complete the retiling, which consisted of nearly 25,000 square feet of porcelain tile from Daltile’s Keystones collection. The team behind the 2015 retile, along with Berglund Construction Co. in Chicago, IL, and Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc. (WJE) engineering in Northbrook, IL, was called on again for this demanding project.

“The driving need for this project was functional surface performance,” said Mike Tate, senior account executive of the tile department at Diverzify in Itasca, IL, who led the tile installation team. “The facility had challenges with tile failure twice since the facility was built (tiles falling off under water) that adversely affected functional performance and facility aesthetics. The challenge for this project was to assure a ‘no-fail’ installation solution.”

With only three months allotted to complete the retiling, the teams had no room for delays. “The OSU aquatic facilities host a myriad of programs and events for the students and the community beginning mid-August,” Tate explained. “The start date was in early May and completion by the beginning of August was imperative to allow for the two weeks necessary to fill the pools with over a million-and-a-half gallons of water. The project timeline had no wiggle room for problems or mistakes.”

The original tile selected for the pools and decks, Daltile’s Keystones collection, was specified for the project for continuity. “The tile selection was made by the original construction team and was used in pools and decks,” Tate said. “The pool installation failed twice after initial construction, requiring a new team and new approach. However, for aesthetics with the pool and deck surfaces, the tile selection needed to remain the same.”

About 25,000 square feet of 1- x 1-inch porcelain tile from Daltile’s Keystones collection was used, which was supplied directly from Daltile. The tile came with the new ClearFace™ mounting system, which differs significantly from standard, paper-faced mounting.

With an already tight deadline, the installers were also tasked with mastering a new mounting system, which left an adhesive residue on the tile that required a special cleaning agent.
“During post-installation removal of the new ClearFace™ tile mounting system, the installation team discovered that an adhesive residue remained on the tile,” Tate said. “The full project team collaborated to identify an effective cleaning product that would not degrade the integrity of the tile surface or affect the setting materials. Before a new product could be used, it would have to be tested and approved. This presented a potential project timeframe issue. Fortunately, the Diverzify installation team was able to quickly identify Aqua Mix® NanoScrub® as a suitable cleaning agent, which allowed testing and approve within the project schedule timeframe.”
The Diverzify team, which consisted of between six to nine installers at any given time, timed and documented multiple aspects of the installation to assure installation methods satisfied both time constraints and quality standards. “Onsite multi-day visits were scheduled for three key project phases and coordinated with the full project team, including Berglund Construction and the OSU staff,” Tate detailed. “Onsite visits allowed verification that we were on schedule and mitigated any issues that could cause delays. One example was proactively identifying a cleaning agent suitable for project requirements and approved by the engineering company, WJE. Site visits were also important for team morale. The installer team of Local 21 out of Chicago had volunteered to be away from home for the duration of this summer-long project and their well-being was an important aspect of project management.”

With the tile installation completed on time, the McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion projects a state-of-the-art image and represents OSU pride and spirit, according to Tate. Most importantly, there have been no issues of adhesion failure or any the other tile malfunctions that once frustrated and embarrassed administrators. “The administration and facility users have been very pleased with the performance and the aesthetic appeal achieved with this project,” Tate said. “The project has also earned industry awards and recognition for excellence and achievement.

“This project tested the experience, knowledge, and innovation of the entire team,” he added. “Extreme conditions and schedule demands pushed everyone, from school administrators to engineers to installers, to the brink of performance. The successful outcome is a point of professional pride for everyone involved.”


McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion at Ohio State University
Columbus, OH

General Contractor/Engineer: Berglund Construction Co., Chicago, IL; Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc., Northbrook, IL

Tile Installer: Diverzify, Itasca, IL

Tile Supplier: Daltile, Dallas, TX (Keystones collection)

Installation Products: Custom Building Products, Huntington Beach, CA (Aqua Mix® NanoScrub®)