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Huge popularity of aquatic center spurs added parking

J. H. Osborne • Jun 8, 2013 at 10:47 PM

KINGSPORT — Attendance has been going swimmingly well at Kingsport’s new Aquatic Center, city officials said last week. So well, in fact, that the city is moving forward quickly to add 70 more parking spaces to the center’s parking lot.

That’ll cost about $160,000, according to an ordinance endorsed by the Kingsport Board of Mayor and Aldermen. To become effective, it needs a second vote by the BMA. That’s expected to happen later this month.

The parking project will add 70 parking spaces, but also includes some added sidewalk near the gatehouse.

With the new spaces, and including some staff parking in the back and along an access road, there will be parking for around 400 vehicles on the site.

“Obviously we want to get it down as quickly as possible,” said Assistant City Manager Chris McCartt.

If the weather cooperates, the project could be completed by July 4, McCartt said.

Infrastructure already in place includes the storm water system that will serve the expansion, McCartt said, reducing what it would otherwise cost to add the new spots.

Mayor Dennis Phillips said public response to the aquatic center has been overwhelming and he was amazed at how many cars he saw when he passed by last Saturday.

McCartt said the center is drawing visitors from all counties in Northeast Tennessee and from throughout Southwest Virginia — as well as from out of state, noting a busload from Kentucky on a recent day.

McCartt said not everyone comes by car — many are coming on public transit and a lot of people are arriving by bicycle on the “mobility path” added to Wilcox Drive.

“Saturday (June 1) was our biggest day,” McCartt said. “Before that, Friday had been our biggest day. Sunday would have been busier if it hadn’t rained.”

On that Saturday, McCartt said, at one point there were 152 tubes in the complex’s “lazy river” — but the flow was smooth and there were no complaints about crowding.

McCartt said city staff have heard nothing but positive comments from visitors to the new center.

A typical comment has been that the aquatic center is exactly what the city needed — and that being able to go there has kept families in town rather than looking elsewhere for entertainment or activity.

“We’ve been very pleased with the response,” McCartt said. “We’re averaging about 1,200 people per day.”

As of Friday, the aquatic center has sold 1,084 memberships of all types, including season passes.

For more information, visit www.swimkingsport.com or call 343-9758.

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