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Archive for Thursday, June 7, 2001

In the swim

June 7, 2001

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The new Lawrence Indoor Aquatic Center has something for everyone.

It's hard to imagine anything that is missing from the new Lawrence Indoor Aquatic Center at 4706 Overland Dr.

There is a 50-meter competitive pool that dwarfs any other indoor facility in Lawrence. The pool is so large that Lawrence Parks and Recreation can schedule activities at one end of the pool and leave plenty of room for Free State High School swimmers to practice at the other. There is a diving well, lap lanes and plenty of room for open swimming. Second-floor offices look out over the pool, and, next door, bleachers can be pulled out for spectators watching swim meets.

In the adjacent room, the family pool has something for everyone. There is a lap pool right next to a veritable water playground, complete with a spiral slide, floating toys and bubbling fountains. As a family attraction, this pool has it all. It is a "kid magnet," but it also is set up for more serious swimmers.

The attention to detail is apparent throughout this facility. A multi-purpose room can be reserved for parties, and a concession stand is located near the family pools. The men's and women's locker rooms are clean and spacious. Several family dressing rooms are the perfect amenity for families with small children.

It is a facility of which Lawrence should be proud.

A couple of decisions made by Lawrence city commissioners long before construction of the pool began were instrumental in making this such an outstanding facility. First, the location of the pool was moved from Centennial Park to a building adjacent to Free State High School. Instead of building two pools, the city and school district could combine their resources to build a larger and more complete pool than either could have financed alone.

The other decision was what one former city commissioner referred to at the pool's grand opening last weekend as the choice to "build for the future." When they approved the plans in 1998, commissioners were pretty sure they wanted to combine a family pool with a competitive pool, but they strongly considered a more modest project that would have included just a 25-meter competitive pool. After considerable discussion, commissioners voted unanimously for the larger pool which will serve the community well for many years to come.

Perhaps the main challenge of this facility will be to deal with what is sure to be a strong demand for its use. It is a premiere facility for competitive swimming events, but it also is a city pool that must maintain plenty of hours for fitness and recreational swimmers. The pool was made possible by funds from the local 1-cent sales tax, and city officials must make it accessible to local residents by providing sufficient public swimming hours at an affordable price.

On the other hand, there should be no fear that the pool's location on the Free State campus will detract from its attendance. With its separate entrance on the west side of the school, the pool has the feel of a completely independent and free-standing facility where everyone is welcome.

The "wow" factor on this pool clearly is high. City and school officials and taxpayers should be congratulated for supporting such a superlative facility.

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