Kingsport may partner with YMCA on aquatics center

Matthew Lane • Apr 6, 2008 at 12:00 AM

KINGSPORT — The city of Kingsport and the Greater Kingsport Family YMCA have had discussions about co-locating a proposed $12.6 million aquatics center with the YMCA’s new facility, possibly in the Meadowview area of town.

City leaders have discussed replacing the aging Legion Pool with an aquatics center for years. The 32-year-old pool continues to degrade, loses about 30,000 gallons of water a day, and reasonable repairs are no longer feasible.

Therefore, city officials have included an aquatics center in a proposed capital projects list. The idea being discussed is a $12.6 million indoor/outdoor facility with 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).

During a recent Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting, city leaders mentioned that some discussions had taken place between the city and the YMCA about co-locating their two new facilities together. The idea being instead of each entity building a pool, why not build one pool facility and share.

“I think it’s certainly an advantage to the YMCA or anyone else to co-locate,” City Manager John Campbell said.

In June 2005, the YMCA moved into its temporary home at 1100 Franklin Square while it worked on raising funds to build its new $7.5 million facility behind the Kmart Supercenter on Stone Drive.

Charlie Glass, executive director of the YMCA, said the organization has been planning all along to build a pool at its new facility — a warm water pool first, and then later on, a competition pool.

“With the city wanting to build an aquatic center, it makes sense to look at the community needs, our plans and their plans,” Glass said. “As any logical person might imagine, what about doing one center and maximizing community resources. We’re exploring that.”

Legion Pool receives a $60,000 to $70,000 subsidy from the city every year to help cover operating costs, Campbell said. The proposed aquatics center would have an estimated net loss of $237,000 a year.

Campbell said one major advantage in co-locating the facilities would be to help with the operating costs.

“We’ve figured out how to fund the capital part without raising taxes, but the operating costs became a sticking point — co-locating would help offset the loss,” he said. “That’s a hard issue to handle for some people, and it’s not so much what we see today, but what could it be long term.”

The city has not only talked to the YMCA about co-locating, but city officials talked with the Great Body Company (which was not interested in moving at this time), and Campbell said the city would be willing to talk with other fitness centers in the region about some sort of contractual plan to where their members could use the facility.

“It makes sense to talk to people who want to be in the pool business,” Campbell said. “To be involved in some type of contractual basis with members helps control operating costs.”

City officials recommended the facility be built in the Meadowview area of town, possibly along Wilcox Drive, on a 10-acre site. Campbell said the site would also accommodate the new YMCA facility. The current Legion Pool site is not large enough to accommodate the proposed aquatics center facility and would likely be replaced with a public park and some sort of water feature, like a fountain or reflecting pool.

Though the BMA supports the concept of an indoor/outdoor aquatics center, not all are in favor of the proposed site.

Vice Mayor Ben Mallicote has “serious reservations” about the Meadowview area and said the facility should be located downtown.

“(In the Meadowview area) it would be away from any neighborhood in town, and there would be no safe way to get there on a bicycle,” Mallicote said. “It does a poor job of serving our citizens at the perceived value of serving tourists.

“It would much better serve us as a city to have it located downtown.”

Campbell said he thinks an indoor-only facility would be feasible downtown but is not sure how the city would do an outdoor feature at a downtown facility.

Alderman Ken Marsh said a Meadowview site makes “zero sense” to him.

“Meadowview is elitist. Eighty percent of our citizens never set foot out there. If we do something for tourism, that’s one thing. But this is a local facility,” Marsh said. “My view is Meadowview is the last place (to build an aquatics center).”

Construction on a new YMCA was scheduled to begin last year, but due to wetland permits and an archeological study, the project got delayed. Then came the idea of co-locating the facility with the aquatics center, which has further delayed the start of construction.

Glass said the YMCA is pushing the city to know whether or not the co-location idea is going to work.

“We’re at a point where we’re ready to start, and we need to determine if this is going to work or not,” Glass said.

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