News From Terre Haute, Indiana

June 25, 2013

Board OKs pool public hearing

Vigo schools to continue investigating proposal

Sue Loughlin
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — The Vigo County School Board voted 7-0 to conduct a July 22 public hearing related to a proposed, centrally located swimming pool facility to replace aging pools at the three high schools.

The board did not make a final decision on the project Monday, but it did authorize the administration to continue investigating the proposal and to conduct the required tax rate impact/preliminary determination hearing.

Officials say swimming pools at Terre Haute North Vigo, Terre Haute South Vigo and West Vigo high schools are in poor condition and in need of renovation.

“After significant study by the administration, a single site, centrally located facility appears to be the most cost-effective alternative to renovation at all three high school sites,” according to information provided to School Board members.

The estimated cost of the new swimming facility is between $8 million and $9 million, and the district proposes to finance it by issuing general obligation bonds.

Costs to replace the existing pools could range from $10 million to $13 million, according to Jeff Thompson, the swimming coach at Terre Haute South Vigo High School who also heads the Terre Haute Torpedoes swim club.

However, even if renovated, the pools would not meet today’s swimming standards for competition. Should a new swim facility come to fruition, the three existing pools would be closed and the space re-purposed into classrooms or other uses.

A centrally located swim facility could also bring opportunities for swim clubs and swimming events, Superintendent Dan Tanoos said last week.

At the start of Monday’s meeting, a handful of people addressed the proposed project. “I truly believe the investment you make [in a new swim facility] will return dividends to us and to everybody for generations to come,” said Jim Nichols, a 1983 North Vigo High School graduate who was on the swim team. His daughter, a 2013 North graduate, also was a swimmer.

He talked about the invaluable life lessons they both learned from coaches. “I applaud the efforts of the School Board in pursuing this program,” Nichols said.

Joann Cerny, who used to teach swimming at the high school level, had concerns that with the change to a single, centralized facility, swim classes would no longer be part of the high school curriculum.

Tanoos said that with a new facility, there would no longer be swim classes offered as part of the high school curriculum — but high school swim teams would use the new facility as would the Torpedoes swim club. Also, there is discussion about having learn-to-swim programs for children at an early age.

Thompson said a pool committee has looked into a lot of different scenarios and believes it would be a big benefit to the school district financially to build and maintain one new facility rather than try to maintain the three existing facilities.

Even if North and South were renovated, there is no room for expansion, and the pools would continue to have just six swimming lanes. To host IHSAA events, pools must have eight lanes, Thompson said.

“Our athletes would continue to travel to the Indianapolis area for competition,” he said.

One new facility costing $8 million to $9 million, versus renovating the three others for $10 million to $13 million, would mean savings “right off the bat,” Thompson said.

Last week, Tanoos agreed that “it will be so much more economical to maintain one pool instead of three.”

What’s being discussed, according to Thompson, is a 50-meter long pool, known as an Olympic-sized pool, which would be 25 yards wide, as yards are the standard competition distance for high school and collegiate events. It would contain 22 swim lanes. That would allow 18 lanes to be used for swimmers from the three high schools and the remainder for divers, in a diving well area of the pool.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.