Public pool priorities are changing

Public pool priorities are changing

As the city juggles its pool options—to renovate city pools or to approve a YMCA aquatic facility—one of the most vocal contingents throughout the process has been city and county residents who regularly use the lap lanes at Smith and Crow pools. But the way citizens are using pools is changing, as evidenced in proposed designs, and that change is causing the city to rethink its pool priorities.

A renovated Smith Pool, at a cost of $9.8 million, will have six lap lanes, but also will include a play zone, complete with an 80′-long "lazy river" and a two-turn water slide.
Previous coverage:

City, YMCA negotiate agreement
Swim lanes, school priority seen as potential deal breakers

City not happy with proposed YMCA pool
But likes free membership for residents below poverty line

Without facility, local YMCA cramped
Staff have high hopes new home will connect community

Council asks for draft lease for YMCA
Wendel not alone—anti-YMCA arguments connected to national organization

Whom would YMCA serve?
ACAC questions whether a Charlottesville Y would serve its mission

City must decide on YMCA
Councilors debate implications for Parks and Rec

At the November 19 City Council meeting, councilors approved the renovation of Smith Pool, even as the future of a proposed McIntire Park YMCA—and its eight to 10 lap lanes—is still unclear. Both pools would include cold-water lap lanes, the precious commodity that councilors like David Brown and Kendra Hamilton have fought for.

But both the designs for Smith Pool and the YMCA aquatic facility include warm-water pools. These facilities could have amenities such as water slides, play equipment and enough open water for things like water sports and aquatic therapy. The new Smith Pool would have a play zone with equipment and a maximum depth of 18", an 80′-long "lazy river" and a two-turn water slide.

Smith and Crow pools, as they stand now, reflect the priorities of the 1970s, when both were constructed. Both devote most of their space to lap lanes. But modern pools are beginning to reflect a change that emphasizes warm-water aquatics, open-water space and features that are more attractive to a younger crowd.

"This enhanced, modern aquatic facility will touch more people of more ages, more interests and more abilities," Mike Svetz, director of Parks and Recreation, told councilors.

Later in the meeting, Brown agreed with that assessment: "The group of kids we’re always trying to find activities for doesn’t come to the pool to swim laps."

Svetz was able to come back to City Council with a revised Smith Pool proposal that managed to both slim costs and increase usage. The new proposal cut the estimated cost of a renovated Smith Pool by more than $6 million, down to $9.8 million total. It also upped the lap lanes by two, from four to six.

Six laps lanes at Smith could be music to the ears of YMCA President Kurt Krueger. Last month, Krueger raised some councilors’ ire when he broke the news that the city would have to shell out an additional $1.25 million to up the pool to 10 lanes from eight lanes, even though the city had already agreed, in principle, to lease park land to the YMCA.

Svetz said reducing square footage and narrowing the scope of building material helped bring down costs. But he also warned Council that he reworked the cost containment escalation, which means the city needs to move relatively quickly before construction costs rise over time.

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