Kingsport’s aquatic center, under construction since last December, is located on a 15-acre site behind The Cattails driving range off Wilcox Drive. The 50,000-square-foot facility will include indoor and outdoor pools and water features and be co-located with the new YMCA Wellmont Center. Estimated cost of both facilities is $26.3 million.
Frank Brewer, the city’s head project manager on the facility, gave his monthly report to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen on Monday, saying a great deal of progress has taken place on the aquatic center over the past month.
Brewer said the project is just over the halfway mark, the brick work is essentially complete, the exterior metal studs and sheeting are 95 percent complete, and all three interior pools have had the concrete poured.
Mechanical and electrical work is progressing sequentially, the gatehouse walls are 70 percent complete, and sheetrock installation has begun on the YMCA side of the property. Stormwater drainage work on the outdoor park has been completed, thus work on the features can begin soon, Brewer said.
As a result, the estimated completion date has been moved up seven days from last month’s May 22 date to May 15. Two months ago, the estimated completion date was the week of May 13.
For most of this year the project has been on schedule and on budget, but the schedule slipped in May by two weeks when the contractor believed it necessary to re-pour a footer. That time was made up in June. The schedule slipped again by two weeks in July due to heavy rains.
“Again, the schedule is going to go up and down. That’s the nature of the business. In my opinion ... work is going extremely well, and progress is going very well at this point,” Brewer said.
Although the BMA received an update on the construction schedule, no update was given on other aspects of the project, including the fee schedule for the facility, whether Legion Pool should remain open a year after the aquatic center opens, and if the carousel should be located at the Legion Pool site.
The Aquatic Advisory Board had planned to bring a fee schedule recommendation to the BMA by the end of October, but Chris McCartt, assistant to the city manager, said that will likely be by the end of the year since the fee schedule would likely be a collaboration of the board and the director of the facility.
Kingsport has advertised the director’s position, and McCartt said approximately six candidates would likely be interviewed for the job next month.
In addition, Kingsport advertised in Sunday’s Times-News for requests for proposals (RPFs) from professional marketing firms to help the city market and brand the new aquatic center.
Three months ago, Mayor Dennis Phillips charged a committee of city staff and community members to explore the possibility of the carousel locating at the Legion Pool site, rather than the original location of the Kingsport Farmers Market. The committee was expected to bring a recommendation to the BMA in October. McCartt said that recommendation will likely come before the BMA in a couple of months.
Finally, Phillips asked city staff for options regarding Legion Pool, specifically the cost associated with keeping the 37-year-old facility open. Phillips asked for the options by Monday’s meeting. McCartt said those would be presented at the Nov. 5 BMA work session.
During the early stages of the aquatic center project, the BMA made a pledge to keep Legion Pool open at least a year after the aquatic center opens, if economically feasible. However, city leaders are weighing that pledge against the cost to operate aging and repair-laden Legion Pool, now to the tune of $120,000 a year.