Aquatic center construction remains on pace

By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Construction on the Tupelo Aquatic Center remains on pace despite wet, cold weather.
“The rain is definitely slowing things down,” said Don Lewis, Tupelo Parks and Recreation director. “The good thing is that they made good progress early on.”
Southaven-based Murphy & Sons construction has already laid the foundation and the pool floor at the Veterans Park site. Portions of the walls have gone up too, Lewis said. Landscaping crews have taken advantage of the weather to plant trees.
“They’ve done a really good job,” Lewis said. “Right now, we still feel on target to be substantially complete in November.”
The 44,000 square-foot, $11 million indoor pool complex will house an Olympic-size pool and a smaller pool for fitness and instruction classes. It also will have spectator seating, locker rooms, restrooms, offices, multipurpose room, kitchen, lobby and outdoor sunbathing area.
It will serve both competitive and casual swimmers and was designed with an eye toward hosting state, regional and national swim meets.
If construction continues to stay on track, Lewis anticipates the aquatic center will have a soft opening in December 2013 and a grand opening in January 2014.
“We’re hoping to host our first meet in February 2014,” Lewis said.
Next steps
Not all the action will be on the construction site. In late winter or early spring, a capital campaign with aquatic supporter groups is set to begin to raise money to purchase scoreboard, timing system and fixtures, Lewis said.
During the spring and summer, Parks and Recreation will move forward on assembling an aquatic center staff, Lewis said.
ISG – the consulting group that helped develop the plans to build the aquatic center – has recommended a three-person staff to run it: An aquatic director, a programming director and a pool manager.
Only one of the three positions will be a new position. There already is a pool manager on staff, and Lewis plans to refocus one of the parks and recreation staff positions completely for the aquatic center.
Lewis said he hopes to name the aquatic director in March or April and a programming director over the summer.
It’s important to get the team assembled early because of the emphasis on hosting meets as well as traditional recreation activities.
“It takes a year to a year and a half to secure events,” Lewis said.
While construction finishes next fall, the Rob Leake City Pool will remain open and the water will be heated as it usually is to accommodate swimmers.
Unless construction is significantly delayed in the spring, the bubble will move to cover four new tennis courts at the Rob Leake City Park.
The work required to relocate the blower and the heater for the bubble will have to be done over the summer.
“It takes a crane to move the blower,” Lewis said.
michaela.morris@journalinc.com