Kingsport BMA hears options for aquatics center

Matthew Lane • Dec 18, 2007 at 12:00 AM

KINGSPORT — City leaders are exploring the idea of building a $12.6 million aquatics center somewhere in the Model City, with both indoor and outdoor pools, a children’s area and four-lane warm pool.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen heard a presentation Monday afternoon from the Parks and Recreation Department about options for replacing Legion Pool with an aquatics center. The options came from Markey and Associates, which recently updated a 2002 study of Legion Pool.

City leaders have discussed replacing the aging Legion Pool with an aquatics center for years. Tom Bowman, leisure services director, said the pool continues to degrade, and reasonable repair options for the pool are no longer feasible due to the continued deterioration of the pool shell.

The 32-year-old pool loses more than 30,000 gallons of water a day.

Between 5 percent and 10 percent of that water is lost through normal evaporation, water splashing out of the pool and through overflow.

Therefore the six options presented by Markey and Associates include three proposals with indoor pools, a proposal for a strictly outdoor facility, and two plans with both indoor and outdoor pools. The cost of the six proposals ranges from $7.8 million to $15.4 million.

All but one of the options would operate with a yearly net loss (from $230,000 to $349,000). The outdoor-only option is estimated to generate around $45,000 a year. Legion Pool has an average yearly attendance of 23,263 people and operates with a yearly net loss of $66,265.

The Parks and Recreation Department and advisory committee recommended Monday afternoon the $12.6 million indoor/outdoor option, which includes two indoor pools (25 yard by 50 meter lap pool and a four-lane warm pool) and two outdoor pools (an activity pool with two slides and a zero-depth children’s water area).

Bowman said a new aquatics center could be used for therapy programs, fitness training, swim team practices, the city school system, employee wellness, educational programs, lap swimming, rentals and special events, and of course, recreational swimming.

“Earlier, (the pool) was mainly for recreation, but we’re trying to take advantage of the wellness aspect — wellness, competition, recreation and safety, Bowman said, noting that as many as 70 percent of teenagers entering high school do not know how to swim.

“A lot of components have gone into this,” he said.

Bowman said the current site of the Legion Pool would likely not be used for the aquatics center. The department is recommending building one somewhere in the Meadowview area of town. Bowman said a site is not known at this time.

As for the Legion Pool site, Bowman said the city would like to keep the space available for the community and include an aquatic component, such as a fountain, and maybe have some pavilions or a playing field for soccer or softball on the property.

One of the selling points for a new aquatics center is the fact the facility would be open more than 350 days a year, as compared to the 75 days Legion Pool is open each year. City Manager John Campbell said Legion Pool is open around 600 hours a year, and that a new facility would likely be open nearly 6,000 hours a year.

“We are very under-pooled for a city our size,” Campbell said. “It is important that the board give us some sense that we need to replace Legion Pool, and we need to look at a 12-month solution instead of a two-and-a-half-month solution. From an efficiency standpoint, (Legion Pool) is out of action nine and a half months out of the year.”

City leaders asked some questions about the proposal and appeared supportive of replacing Legion Pool with an aquatics center, though no specific option was formally endorsed. Campbell said the next step would be to come back with proposed funding and possible locations when the city begins its capital improvement discussions in February.

Paul Von Bramer spoke on behalf of a number of seniors in attendance Monday afternoon, saying the seniors at the Kingsport Renaissance Center were behind the project 100 percent.

“We’re tickled to death about the project,” he said. “From a senior point of view, during the summer we go to Legion Pool and the city gives us from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m., but it closes August 1st. We have to wait a month or two before we get into the Dobyns-Bennett pool, which is a full-time process and we end up getting 25 minutes.”

For years now, city leaders have included Legion Pool renovations on various capital improvement “wish lists,” but a major renovation of the pool has not taken place. Legion Pool renovations got bumped from the city’s plans a few years back when the city built new soccer and ball fields.

In the 2002 study, Markey and Associates suggested the city demolish Legion Pool and replace it with two smaller pools (competition and play), a water slide feature and a new bathhouse — all with an estimated cost of $2.46 million.

Funds set aside for renovations at Legion Pool have been raided for other projects over the years — at least $700,000 over the past eight years. Just under $500,000 existed in the Legion Pool fund up until this year when the city earmarked $6 million toward an aquatics center.

Built in 1975 on the site of the old city pool, the Legion Pool is a traditional L-shaped pool designed to accommodate swim meets.

The site includes a restaurant, kiddie pool, two slides and three diving boards.

The cost to build the 550,000-gallon pool was $520,000.

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