Tupelo puts up swimming pool canvas

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – It’s no wonder the city wants a permanent indoor swimming facility – erecting the winter bubble over its current outdoor pool seems an unusual punishment.
No fewer than 45 people were required to assemble and lift the giant structure over the Rob Leake City Pool on Wednesday – a process involving days of advance preparation and hours of manual labor.
It will stay up until spring.
Heavy sections of the fabric bubble arrived on forklift, were plopped onto the tarped pool like round bales of hay and unfurled by the crew’s biggest and strongest men.
Once unfurled, the sections required a team effort to yank them across the pool’s covered surface. Each person grabbed hold and pulled, some of them getting sucked under the moving fabric and scrambling out quickly before disappearing.
The process repeated for each of the four sections, which had to be lined up and fastened together with tiny wooden pegs, the edges tethered to the ground. Doors were installed and fitted, adjustments made, fabric stretched. And finally the bubble inflated.
It’s an arduous ritual occurring every year when the temperatures dip. The bubble comes down in the spring, but that process requires less labor.
“I hate this day,” said Department of Parks and Recreation Director Seth Gaines.
The staff of the city Parks and Recreation Department, along with Lee County Work Program inmates and Tupelo Municipal Court Work-Release Program participants joined in the effort.
But the bubble’s days are numbered. The 15-year-old cover, which is aging and torn, has about two seasons left before total deterioration, said Parks and Recreation Director Don Lewis.
“For a seasonal structure, that’s probably about average” for its life span, said Thomas Schlafly, spokesman for Arizon, the company that manufactured Tupelo’s bubble.
Schlafly said newer products last at least 20 years.
But it will cost three-quarters of a million dollars to replace the bubble, and city officials said they’d rather pursue an entirely new indoor aquatics facility instead.
Plans for that facility could move forward next month if the City Council approves a contract with JBHM Architects. The firm will handle preliminary drawings, site selection and cost estimates.
If approved, the entire project could take 18 months to two years and cost a total of $7 million.
Nearly $1 million would come from a previous bond issue. The rest would come from a new bond, but it wouldn’t require a tax increase.

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

Click video to hear audio