Aquatic center ahead of pace

By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Tupelo’s aquatic center is filling in, and the Olympic-size pool is taking shape at Veterans Park in east Tupelo.
Right now, construction is on track to be substantially complete in late summer or early fall, and remains on target with its $11 million budget. The center – which has a total budget of $12.4 million when architecture, engineering, consulting and furnishings are included – is expected to open in late fall.
“We’re ahead of schedule,” said Tupelo Parks and Recreation Director Don Lewis.
Six meets are already on the calendar through July 2014, including two state-level meets, said Amy Williams Kennedy, who has been appointed aquatic facility director.
“We have the state short course meet from Feb. 27 to March 2,” Kennedy said. “The Mississippi Long Course Championships will be July 17 through 20.”
The Tupelo Parks and Recreation Department and the Shockwave competitive team soon will be asking community and corporate partners to jump into supporting the center, said Daphene Hendricks, Tupelo Sports Council marketing director. The partnership opportunities will go beyond having a sign on the wall. The options include use of the meeting space or discounted user passes.
“They’re going to get more out of it,” Holcomb said.
Expanded services
The new center will offer more than space for competitive meets. Tupelo Parks and Recreation is planning for expanded public hours from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week. Because two pools will be available, it will be able to accommodate multiple user groups, Williams said. Except for the largest meets, the center shouldn’t close to the public.
The Rob Leake City Pool will close once the programs are moved over to the new aquatic center, and minimal people will be impacted.
The proposed aquatic center budget will be substantially bigger than the current one for Rob Leake City Pool, but because of the increased revenue from meets and user fees, the net cost to operate the aquatic center should be the same or less, Lewis said.
“We’re changing our business model,” Lewis said.
To allow for closer monitoring of the aquatic center budget and revenue, it will be separated from the Parks and Recreation budget as a single line item in the city budget.
Parks and Recreation will seek budget approval for two more full-time positions – a program director and a facilities manager.
“That’s what we feel we need to operate the aquatic center correctly,” Lewis said.

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