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Other cities across state have had success with indoor pools

A rendering of the indoor and outdoor pool facility in Clarksville.
A rendering of the indoor and outdoor pool facility in Clarksville.

While the Maumelle Bond Task Force is still looking at different projects, the one that has gained the most attention is a proposed indoor pool at the Jess Odom Community Center.

In a September presentation Mayor Mike Watson said he took a look at five cities across the state with indoor pools. They are: Bryant, Cabot, Heber Springs, Jacksonville and Paragould.

Bryant with its 2010 Census population of 16,688 is the closest match to Maumelle and its 17,163 people.

The indoor pool at Bryant has been wildly successful, said Derek Phillips, head of that city’s Parks and Recreation Department.

“We have a huge swim community in Bryant and really in the entire county,” he said. “It is a very large following for competitive swimming.”

Onat Tungac, a former college swimmer at Henderson State in Arkadelphia, is the department’s aquatics coordinator and has been with the city since before the pool was built.

“It is two pools under one roof,” Tungac said of his facility and is similar to what was proposed by Watson at the September meeting with one pool being a 25-yard competition pool and the other a therapeutic pool that is used for things like water aerobics.

Phillips said 250 to 500 people use the indoor pools on a daily basis with the range depending on the season.

Bryant also has two party rooms that are available, a slight variation from the Maumelle proposal and its one party room.

“We book those out on the weekends,” Phillips said. “They’re always booked.”

Tungac added that four different swim teams also use the indoor pool and a total of 4,000 people are members of the parks and recreation center that also includes an outdoor pool, basketball courts and exercise facilities among other amenities.

Cost to use the indoor pool varies with the lowest cost being $10 monthly for seniors and students under 17, with a family plan costing $42 a month for two adults and up to three children.

A city Watson did not look at was Clarksville on the western side of the state.

Its new, $11.4 million indoor and outdoor aquatic facility is set to open its second phase later this month, said Parks and Recreation director Tom Cogan.

Paid for with a city-wide sales tax, the facility has two indoor pools, one for laps and the other for therapy and low-impact exercising.

The outdoor facility has a pool, a lazy river course and slides. It is more a water park and opened for a short season in July and closed by Labor Day.

The University of Ozarks, the private college in Clarksville, also has an indoor pool and is used by three high school swimming teams in the area, said school official Josh Peppas.

Arkansas Tech University in Russellville closed its indoor pool last December in a move to save money and Cogan expects the high school teams to migrate to the new city facility.

Watson has estimated the cost of the indoor facility at $7.7 million, with another $1.5 million set aside for contingencies and that $9.2 million is considerably less than the Clarksville price tag of $11.4 million.

“It was about $9 million for the construction, and another million for the architecture and design,” Cogan said. “The rest, $1.4 million, was for the bond fees. But those are just some rough numbers.”

Cogan didn’t know the exact split between the indoor and outdoor portions of the facility.

“If I was just going to ballpark it, I’d say around $7 million total,” he said. “That’s a pretty good split. You know Russellville is also having an indoor pool built and it was around $7 million as well. I’d say that $7 million sounds about right.”

Cogan and Clarksville Mayor Billy Helms both said that facility was built using a city-wide sales tax.

“That’s the fairest and best way to go,” said Pat Austin, the Parks and Recreation director for Paragould, of the funding mechanism for an indoor pool.

“You better get sales tax,” Austin said. “Millage is only hitting property but with a sales tax anyone coming to your city, will help pay for it. That’s the fairest way.”

Paragould, a city of 26,113 according to the 2010 Census, is a fast growing city near Jonesboro in northeast Arkansas.

Maumelle will not be using a sales tax to pay for the development though as millage was used previously for other bonds and that is what will be presented to voters in the long process to get bond money approved.

Currently, Maumelle has a millage of 6.6 mills, said Watson and that money, “roughly $2 million a year” is being used to pay off other projects.

The millage would stay the same, assuming it was approved by voters but first the Bond Task Force would have to recommend the indoor plan to the City Council. Then the City Council would have to evaluate the plan and decide to send it on to the voters.

Watson thought a special election was unlikely, due to the cost of holding one, and that if was approved at the other stops, the measure could be on the November 2014 ballot, or a little more than a year away.

At the September meeting, the idea was floated to build Maumelle’s indoor pool in phases with, perhaps, the lap pool first, and then followed by the therapy pool. Watson was receptive to the idea then but has since changed his mind.

Watson said that building in phases would not necessarily save money as equipment for both pools and the building would still have to be designed and built to host both.

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