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Archive for Friday, May 29, 1998

POCKETBOOK

May 29, 1998

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A ``family pool'' is a given for the city's planned indoor aquatics center. The only question is its size.

The city won't build a 50-meter indoor pool unless Kansas University dives in with some cash.

Lawrence city commissioners support building a new $7.6 million indoor aquatics center -- featuring a 10-lane, 25-meter competitive pool -- north of Free State High School, as discussed during a study session Thursday at city hall. The center also would include a dedicated diving well and a separate family pool featuring slides, fountains, whirlpools and possibly even warm-water lap lanes.

``It will provide something for everybody in Lawrence,'' Commissioner Erv Hodges said.

Anything larger would require more money, and that's where KU would come in. A center big enough to accommodate the training and competitive needs of KU swimming -- a 50-meter lap pool, seating for 1,500 people and two team locker rooms -- would add another $3.7 million to the price of the project, architects said, and likely double its annual operating deficits.

``For me that's a difficult leap,'' Commissioner Bob Moody said. ``But if KU is willing to ante up for the 50 meters, that certainly has a significant impact on what we do.''

KU athletics director Bob Frederick, who did not attend Thursday's meeting, said Lawrence needed a 50-meter pool to meet the swimming needs of youth teams, fitness swimmers and even future residents. KU needs a ``long course'' pool to remain competitive in recruiting nationally.

Renting pool space is one consideration, Frederick said, but coming up with nearly $4 million for construction of a city building could raise several difficult issues involving project control and sources of financing.

The debate over the competitive pool's size has been ongoing for months. Organized swimming groups, including the Lawrence Aquahawks, have pushed for the 50-meter concept because of their ongoing needs for more space, both for training and competitions.

With a ``long course'' center, the Aquahawks could shoot for a national meet and KU could attract Big 12 swimming and diving championships, and possibly even the NCAA championships.

But city officials, on the advice of architects from Michael Treanor Architects, are focusing on a smaller center .

Hodges, Moody and Commissioners Bonnie Augustine and John Nalbandian all said they supported building a $7.6 million center that includes a 25-meter competitive pool with 10 ``short course'' lanes of 25 yards.

``It would be great to have a first-class Big 12 facility,'' Nalbandian said, ``but the consultant's right: The first priority has to be the totality of the recreation needs of the community.''

The project also could include 2,200 square feet for parks and recreation administrative offices, which then would open up office space at city hall for other administrative functions, City Manager Mike Wildgen said. The offices would add about $285,000 to the cost of the project, architects said.

``It's an opportunity,'' Wildgen said.

Growth issues clearly are on commissioners' minds.

Mayor Marty Kennedy said he liked the proposed $7.6 million plan, but still wanted to consider building a 50-meter competitive pool: ``This facility needs to be big enough for the community for the next 30 years. I don't want it to be too small.''

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

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