Aquatic center work could start in July

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Construction of Tupelo’s indoor aquatic center will start by July if the city can pick a general contractor this spring.
Tupelo issued a call for bids on the estimated $11.3 million project last week. Companies have until May 1 to submit their applications, and one of them will be recommended to the City Council for approval in June, said Parks and Recreation Director Don Lewis, whose department heads the project.
“We’re hoping we get 10 to 12 qualified bidders,” Lewis said. “But that’s one of those gambles; you never know.”
JBHM Architects, which designed the facility, will study all bid proposals after they’re opened and will do extensive research on each company and its prior projects. Price will be a major consideration, Lewis said, but company profiles also weigh heavily into the decision.
Once a winner is picked, it must earn approval from the council. Council members generally have been supportive of the aquatic center project, and they’ve so far approved all previous phases despite some tough questions about its necessity and cost.
The project has long been a dream of Tupelo’s swim community and the Parks and Recreation Department. Supporters say the city needs a permanent indoor facility to accommodate both competitive and recreational swimming. They also said such a place will lure regional, statewide and even national events to the city and generate a sizable economic impact for restaurants and hotels.
Currently, swimmers use the indoor-outdoor public pool at Rob Leake City Park.
The city will hold a pre-bid meeting April 17 to answer questions from potential bidders.
After the contract is awarded, the winning company will be able to start work immediately, Lewis said. The project will be located at Veterans Park and is slated to take 14 months to complete. It could be open by fall of 2013.
emily.lecoz@journalinc.com