OUR OPINION: Use creativity in funding aquatic center equipment

By NEMS Daily Journal

The long and often passionate quest of swimming enthusiasts for a new aquatic center in Tupelo is heading down the home stretch toward completion of an $11 million all-purpose complex at Veterans Park, but an additional $400,000 is needed to finish it with all the necessary competition components.
The aquatic center idea’s most passionate backers were parents and supporters of Tupelo’s young, competitive swimming teams – programs that have consistently produced championships in high school meets and meets sanctioned by USA Swimming, the national governing body of the sport and the path to Olympic swimming.
The Rob Leake City Park Pool, which has been the home to Tupelo’s swim teams, has served for decades, but the programs have outgrown the facility, which is made all-weather with a temporary cover that was put in place each year with the change of seasons.
As the sport has grown for competition and for recreational swimming, the need for a new venue, fully equipped for sanctioned meets, became obvious. In addition to competitive swimmers, the center will also serve recreational and fitness swimmers.
The city approved $11 million for the facility, but it intentionally left out equipment to make the aquatic arena affordable: time-touch pads, bleachers, a state-of-the-art scoreboard, lockers for athletes, and other touches a first-class facility needs.
The larger community goal is attracting statewide and regional competitions, which brings parents, sibling and supporters to Tupelo as overnight tourists, an economic boon as are soccer, softball and baseball in their seasons.
Mayor Jack Reed Jr. asked the Convention and Visitors Bureau for the final $400,0000 on Monday, adding to the $300,000 it had previously committed.
The CVB operates on tourism taxes, and it has been a successful component of Tupelo’s continuing program of attracting conventions, meets, tournaments and general tourism.
There’s every reason – based on long experience – to believe an additional $400,000 would be a good investment.
Parents, corporate donors and swimming fans have raised $800,000 as a private-sector share of the overall project.
CVB Executive Director Neal McCoy, to be sure, sounded optimistic about more support following the mayor’s request. The request is the kind of challenge Tupelo has managed to meet creatively and successfully for numerous other projects and goals.
We hope a March 1 deadline described by Reed can be met.