TERRE HAUTE —
Construction of a new swimming facility to serve the Vigo County School Corp. remains on track, while a larger proposed county-owned natatorium also is still under discussion.
Superintendent Danny Tanoos said Thursday the school corporation is moving forward with its plans to bond $9 million to $9.75 million for a swim facility, which could be constructed and opened for use for the 2015-2016 school year.
Bill Thomas, president of the Vigo County Council, said the county is proposing to bond for a county-owned natatorium, leased by the school corporation, using Economic Development Income Tax “with a $20 million cap, which we feel would take care of the indoor [swimming facility] and outdoor component [of a water park],” Thomas said.
The bond would likely be funded from up to $1 million a year from income taxes.
The two biggest hurdles between the projects, Tanoos and Thomas said, is programming and location.
Programming remains the top hurdle.
During academic years, high school athletic swimming programs are held early in the morning and immediately after school. Pools are then used by swimming clubs for several hours. High school pools are then used for weekend swim meets.
Thomas said he believes programming can be a solution to meet the school corporation’s needs. He said the county’s proposal is modeled after the Conroe Natatorium Swimming Center in Shenandoah, Texas, which has about 500 student athletes. That facility is open to events along with the public, Thomas said.
That facility hosted the four-day 2013 Division III swimming championship “which had a $1.5 million economic impact to that community,” Thomas said.
Tanoos, Thomas, other county officials and engineering consultant Ralph Wagle met Thursday afternoon to discuss the two projects.
“This was our first conversation, and it was fantastic and we want to continue that dialogue. But we are going to continue as a school corporation … to plan for our facility,” Tanoos said.
“But, in the meantime, we will have some committee meetings with the county and a session with the mayor [of Terre Haute], as he shown some interest in this conversation,” Tanoos said.
“At the end of it all, we all will still be friends, and hopefully we can work out an agreement. If we can’t, we will part ways. Right now it is too early to say more,” Tanoos said. “We don’t want to slow down our process, since we are in such early discussions with the county,” Tanoos said.
“We don’t want to derail or slow down their project in case this would not work, but we shared some concerns [in the discussion]. First and foremost is the protection and security of our students in the scheduling and that the school corporation’s needs are first and foremost,” Thomas said. “We need to step back as the county to see if we can accommodate the scheduling that the school corporation will require and hopefully we can do that,” he said.
The second hurdle is location.
The school corporation is looking for a centralized location that would serve Terre Haute North Vigo, Terre Haute South Vigo and West Vigo high schools.
“We still have a few weeks to work out the conversation” with county officials, Tanoos said of the school corporation’s schedule to move forward on its own swim facility. “There are details, and they are big details, that need to be worked out. However, we think we could come to ... a lease agreement.”
Tanoos said other school officials will meet next week to discuss programming, as well as location. Thomas said a larger facility would be an attraction point for the county.
“If we can get something that will fit the school corporation needs, hopefully we can move on with this,” Thomas said.
“Right now, we have water whenever we need it and we need to continue that thought that whenever we need to use a pool, we have it available,” Tanoos added. “If that can be worked out in programming, that would be wonderful,” he said.
The county’s model, the Conroe Independent School District Natatorium was built in the summer of 2008 and “is one of the premier aquatics facilities for both high school and college in Texas, second only to that of the University of Texas and Texas A&M,” according to the facility’s website, In 2009, the facility was awarded "Best of Aquatics" by Aquatics International, according to the website.
The facility has an indoor 65-meter pool with dual movable bulkheads, a spa/hot tub with a capacity for 12 and four 1-meter and two 3-meter diving boards. The natatorium seats 1,100 fans in the grandstands, and the deck space surrounding the pool provides 12,000 square feet for portable deck bleachers suitable for 900 athletes and coaches, according to the website.
In that facility, the school corporation has access to the facility August to May. Its swim hours are 5:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and two hours on Saturday. Sundays are used for swim meets, while some swim meets are held on Saturdays. Wellness swimming is 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday. The facility is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For more information on the Conroe natatorium, go to http://athletics.conroeisd.net/aquatics.