By Robbie Ward
TUPELO – Tupelo’s $12 million aquatic center opened in December after four years of discussions to upgrade the city’s swimming facilities, bringing a new investment of promise to enhance quality of life and tourism to the community.
City tourism and parks and recreation officials will use the facility with an indoor Olympic-sized, 20-lane pool and a smaller heated pool to lure local, state and possibly national swim meets to Tupelo.
Two state events, including a championship swimming competition are planned for the new facility in Veteran’s Park in east Tupelo in 2014.
The facility has a capacity for 600 swimmers and 900 spectators and had a grand opening on Dec. 14 and will begin opening seven days a week on Jan. 1.
The aquatic center replaces the smaller Rob Leake City Park swimming pool, expected to be torn down in 2014.
The process leading to the new aquatic center began with members of the Tupelo Aquatic Club, along with parents and supporters of high school and Shockwave teams identifying a need for a new swimming facility. In 2010, the City Council contracted with JBHM Architects to plan the project and later selected Veteran’s Park over Ballard Park in west Tupelo as the preferred location.
Along with recreational and lap swimming, the public can participate in many classes and programs including swimming lessons, paddle boarding, scuba diving, aqua Zumba, and kickboxing and more.
Along with two swimming pools, the facility includes a conference room for hosting birthday parties and other gatherings, locker rooms and showers, a patio area, concession area and office space.
“We’re going to have a program for everyone,” said aquatic center director Amy Kennedy.