$11.3M Tupelo pool project gets council support

TUPELO – The City Council could approve a new indoor aquatic facility next month, with construction beginning next year.
Council members voiced support of the $11.3 million project during a Tuesday work session at City Hall. They did not take an official vote, but that is expected happen as early as June 7.
The group had met with municipal Parks and Recreation Director Don Lewis and Joey Henderson of JBHM Architects, which is heading the project’s feasibility study. Several swimmers also attended.
At issue wasn’t whether the city needed a new pool – most agreed it does. Instead, they debated how big and costly it should be.
“We know prices change from year to year, and if we detain it any further the price will go up even more than now,” said Ward 4 Councilwoman Nettie Davis. “I’m ready to move forward on it.”
Once the council gives the go-ahead, Lewis said, it will take approximately six months to prepare the bids. Construction will take about 14 months.
Plans call for a sprawling complex with one Olympic-size pool and one smaller pool for fitness or instruction classes. It also calls for spectator seating, locker rooms, rest rooms, offices, a multipurpose room, kitchen, lobby and an outdoor area for sunbathing and a splash pad.
The 45,000-square-foot complex would serve both casual and competitive swimmers and generate $407,000 in annual revenues, plus an additional $3.2 million in local economic impact, consultants said.
Ward 3 Councilman Jim Newell questioned some of the space needs. He said the city could shave as much as $3 million from the project by shrinking the lobby and locker rooms.
Consultants already reduced the proposed facility from its original 55,000-square-foot plan, and Lewis said it could be cut further before a final plan is adopted.
But, he cautioned, “This is a 30 or 40 or 50-year commitment … you don’t want to build too small.”
A location for the facility hasn’t yet been determined. The study’s authors recommended Ballard Park, even though Veteran’s Park ranked slightly higher on raw criteria.
Ward 3 Councilman Jim Newell said the city should build the pool in south Tupelo, an economically neglected part of the city that needs a shot in the arm.
The new facility will replace the city’s aging indoor pool at Rob Leake Park. It uses a seasonable bubble that desperately needs replacing.
“The current bubble, that’s done, it can’t go up again,” Lewis said. “We would be putting people in jeopardy if it goes up again.”
But because the new aquatic complex wouldn’t open for at least two more years, Lewis said the city must replace the bubble to keep its existing pool open.

Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@journalinc.com.

Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

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