East Ridge officials eye pool replacement

East Ridge officials eye pool replacement

November 17th, 2012 by Shelly Bradbury in Local Regional News

The East Ridge pool may get rebuilt.

Photo by Angela Lewis /Times Free Press.

Illustration by Laura McNutt /Times Free Press.

East Ridge residents might get another chance to splash around in the city's public pool.

After trying to sell the pool for months, East Ridge City Council members abruptly switched gears, taking the property off the market this week and once again considering plans to reopen it.

Council members are considering tearing down the existing pool at 4150 Monroe St. and building a new aquatic center on the spot, Parks and Recreation director Marvin "Stump" Martin said.

"There are some folks out here who would like to have a community pool again," he said. "I think happy times in our lives were spent at pools, and it's a place we all kind of want to go back to. And I think that's where the interest is."

The idea to reopen the pool is only in the beginning stages, and no concrete plans have been made yet, City Manager Tim Gobble said. It could be something the city does within the next couple years, he said.

The new aquatic center could include a bathhouse, pool, fitness center, park and pavilion area and resurfaced tennis courts, Martin said.

"If it's a perfect world and I have the money to build what I want to, that's what I'd do," he said. "I'm not pushing to do that, but if [the council] wants us to do it, then I'm fine for it."

Martin hopes to have a concrete plan ready for the City Council on Dec. 13.

Gobble said early cost estimates show it would be cheaper for the city to build a new pool than to renovate the existing facility: $500,000 and $800,000 for renovation versus $550,000 to $610,000 for a new pool. And that doesn't include about $186,000 to tear down the existing facility or the cost of lights, showers, a bathhouse or fitness center.

"I would be in favor of doing that at some point, but I think we need to identify revenues to do it," Gobble said. "I don't want to see us go into further debt; we're on track to be out of debt by 2024."

The city bought the 43-year-old pool from the East Ridge Youth Foundation in 2010 for $120,000 after the foundation couldn't afford to keep it going. The council decided to sell it in 2011.

The property was listed for sale for through a Realtor for eight months, Gobble said, but no buyers came forward. He said operating a city pool would be expensive.

"It's never going to make money," he said. "Generally, it costs more to operate a pool than you bring in -- but it does provide a recreation outlet for families and children that I think is worth providing, if you can do it in a fairly cost-effective way."

Peggy Grall, aquatics coordinator for Chattanooga Parks and Recreation, said operating a successful pool requires careful planning. Attendance at Chattanooga's pools has been increasing for the last three years, she said, in part because of initiatives like an inflatable obstacle course and spray park.

"When you are running a pool, you need to think outside the box and consider what will bring people in," she said "The industry is telling us that the days of people just coming to the pool are over -- people want to be entertained."

Former East Ridge Youth Foundation board member Tim Witt said he hopes the city does reopen a city pool, and he thinks the operating costs could be offset by local volunteers.

"It would give the kids something to do other than just hang out God knows where," he said. "A lot of people have said that they would help with the upkeep and volunteer. Basically when the pool was first opened that's all we had -- volunteers."