Kingsport readies for next step in aquatic center process

Matthew Lane • Aug 30, 2008 at 12:00 AM

KINGSPORT — Now that the Board of Mayor and Aldermen has decided on a site and a managing partner for Kingsport’s proposed aquatic center, what’s in store next for the $15 million project?

The BMA voted last week to locate a $12.6 million aquatic center in the Meadowview area of town on a 10-acre site between the driving range and Cattails golf course located off Wilcox Drive. The BMA also agreed to co-locate with the new YMCA and is working toward an agreement where the YMCA would operate the aquatic center for the city, thus saving on operational costs.

The concept embraced by the city is for the aquatic center to be an indoor/outdoor facility with two indoor pools (a lap pool and a warm pool) and two outdoor pools (an activity pool with two slides and a zero-depth children’s water area).

City Manager John Campbell said the next step in the process would be for the city to send out requests for proposals from architects and engineers who specialize in aquatic centers. That should take about a month, and then the design process would start.

Campbell said Leisure Services Director Tom Bowman will continue negotiations with the YMCA over an operating agreement and should bring the agreement to the BMA for approval in a couple of months.

“We’ve been very clear with discussion with the YMCA. (The aquatic center) will be a separate building with a separate entrance,” Campbell said. “There may be one or two tunnel connections — passageways — but ours will be separate so any of our public will be able to go and feel comfortable about going to (the center) without feeling like they have to join another organization.”

The city of Kingsport interviewed officials from the YMCA, the Great Body Company and Gold Star Fitness about operating the aquatic center, and the YMCA won out. Campbell said the city would still like to partner with other fitness centers in town, with the idea being they could offer access to the aquatic center with their membership.

“We still want to talk to fitness centers. We told all of them, if you’re interested in your body of people having access, we can negotiate a group rate,” Campbell said. “We want to keep our costs down as low as possible.”

About 18 months ago, the city hired Markey and Associates — a Georgia-based aquatic consulting company — to update its 2002 study of Legion Pool and return with recommendations on what the city should do with the aging facility.

Markey presented a variety of options for the city, including the indoor/outdoor option, which the city ultimately endorsed. Included in the report were cost estimates, along with assumed entry fees for the new aquatic center — $5 for adults and $3 for children.

Campbell said the city has not set an entry fee for the aquatic center.

“We’d like to use the lowest (rate) possible, but I think it’s good we’ve worked with small numbers, and I’d like to do that if we could,” Campbell said.

Legion Pool has an entry fee of $2 for adults and $1 for children.

Eastman Chemical Co. has agreed to donate 12 acres of land for the facility, with an additional two- to five-acre donation being a possibility. Campbell said this is still the case.

According to the engineering report, the Meadowview site would require approximately $1.1 million in wetlands remediation work.

The estimated cost of the project — including construction and site work — is $14 million to $15 million. Campbell hopes to begin construction in April 2009 and finish the project in about 15 months.

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