CVB asked to pitch in $400K more for aquatic center

By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Mayor Jack Reed Jr. on Monday asked the Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau for an additional $400,000 for the Aquatic Center.
That’s on top of the $300,000 the CVB already committed to the project.
“We’ve still got some pieces to put in that were left out to keep it under budget,” said Reed.
The bulk of the money requested would be used for a state-of-the-art digital scoreboard, time/touch pads, bleachers and lockers. Those items were left out to keep the project under budget.
Reed said work is ahead of schedule on the project, and a March 1 deadline is approaching for the contractor on certain work that would include wiring. He asked the CVB to fund the request by then.
“What we’ll need to do is look at the request,” said Neal McCoy, the CVB’s executive director. “I certainly expect to throw our support behind it at some level.”
McCoy said the CVB has a reserve fund of some $3 million but would prefer not to tap into it too deeply unless absolutely necessary. He said he would prefer to finance the request over a period of time.
But he said once the city makes a formal request, the CVB board can review the details to determine if it will meet some or all of Reed’s request.
The board can meet in a special session to vote on the request, McCoy said.
Don Lewis, the city’s Parks and Recreation director, said the touch pads, along with a pace clock, are the biggest priorities.
Reed said a capital campaign involving parents and corporate sponsors has raised about $800,000, but the additional $400,000 still is needed from the CVB.
“The total payout from the city has been about $12 million, the parents and corporate campaign. … we’re looking at $820,000,” Reed told the CVB board. “So even if we add the $300,000 that’s been committed and add another $400,000, that’s less than what’s been raised privately.”
Reed said the aquatic center would benefit the public as well as the swim teams that use the pool.
McCoy said the CVB has never turned down a request from the city to help with projects like this that benefit the entire community.
“We want the aquatic center to be all it can be, we want people to come here and see what we have and want come back. … we’ll fund the request in some way, but we just need to look at the details,” he said.
Work on the 44,000 square-foot, $11 million indoor pool complex in Veterans Park is ahead of schedule, with construction expected to be complete in November.
The Tupelo Aquatic Center 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.
Seth Gaines, the CVB’s sports director, said the city will bid for the state short course swimming championship in 2014. To host larger regional events, the city must first host smaller state events like this first.
City officials alluded to the need to have an aquatic center with all the latest amenities and equipment to win those bids.
dennis.seid@journalinc.com