Archive for Saturday, July 25, 1998

COMMISSIONER TO FLOAT 50-METER POOL PLAN

July 25, 1998

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A 50-meter competitive pool could be included in the city's proposed indoor aquatic center, provided its total cost doesn't splash over $8.5 million.

Lawrence's next aquatic center could include a 50-meter indoor pool after all.

Tuesday night, Lawrence city commissioners once again will discuss plans for a new indoor aquatic center on property at Free State High School, near Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive.

Commissioners Bob Moody plans to float a proposal for an $8.5 million center that would include a 50-meter competitive pool, along with the already agreed-upon family pool complete with slides, fountains and other features.

The key is cost. Architects already have estimated such a center's price tag at $9.57 million, or about $2 million more than the $7.58 million anticipated for a center with a 25-meter competitive pool.

Moody hopes to split the difference and still get the larger pool.

``We need a good, functional building with an emphasis on the function and not on the building,'' Moody said. ``I'm not suggesting that we compromise quality of construction, but it doesn't need to be a Taj Mahal.''

Lockerrooms could be trimmed, less-expensive materials could be used and other features could be consolidated or eliminated.

``In my naive, uneducated viewpoint, it seems fairly simple to maybe pull some of the design elements out of Free State and transfer them over to this building,'' Moody said. ``I don't want to build a barn, but at the same time I want it to be a good enough building that we can be proud of and handle the needs.''

Architects, consultants and commissioners have been haggling for months with various options for a competitive pool, ranging from a 25-meter version with few extras to a full-blown 50-meter pool with locker rooms, spectator seating and concessions areas.

In recent months, four out of five of commissioners -- Moody included -- have supported building a center with a family pool, 25-meter competitive pool and assorted other features for $7.58 million.

But several organized swimming groups, Kansas University and even the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce all have advocated building a center with a 50-meter competitive pool, despite estimates that such a center could cost as much as $300,000 a year to operate -- twice as much as the deficit for a center with a 25-meter pool.

Mark Belford, project architect for Michael Treanor Architects, already has advised commissioners that Lawrence would need twice as many swimmers in the local area to support construction of a center with a 50-meter pool.

Mayor Marty Kennedy, the commission's longtime advocate for the larger pool, described Moody's idea as ``great'' and looks forward to Tuesday night's meeting. A 50-meter pool would give the public access to a pool that also could be shared by competitive swimming groups including the Lawrence Aquahawks, Lawrence Master Swimmers and Kansas University swim teams.

``A 50-meter pool would allow (multiple) uses,'' Kennedy said. ``It's a lot of latitude. It's a lot of flexibility for the community.''

Financing for the project would come from portions of the city's share of a 1-cent countywide sales tax approved by Douglas County voters in 1994. The revenue stream previously had been intended to pay for a new community recreation center in Centennial Park, but commissioners killed that project after it swelled in price from $5.7 million to $13.3 million.

Commissioner Erv Hodges, who took office after the Centennial Park project's abandonment, said he wasn't interested in building a ``cheap'' building. But he's all for a 50-meter pool for $8.5 million, as long as quality isn't sacrificed.

He also wants organized swimming groups to pay higher fees for using the aquatic center. He described the Lawrence Aquahawks' recent $425 weekend rental of the Lawrence Aquatic Center, 727 Ky., as ``asinine.''

``That doesn't even pay for the operations of it,'' Hodges said. ``Some of the groups that are actively soliciting a larger pool may have to consider increased payments to use it.''

Tuesday's meeting begins at 6:35 p.m. at city hall, Sixth and Massachusetts.

-- Mark Fagan's phone message number is 832-7188. His e-mail address is mfagan@ljworld.com.

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