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September 23, 2013

Voorhees Park: ‘No. 1 site’ for new pool

Site, best of 16 to Tanoos, must pass approvals; cost not to exceed $9.8 million

TERRE HAUTE — Voorhees Park stands out as the best location for a proposed Vigo County School Corp. Aquatics Center, Superintendent Dan Tanoos told the School Board Monday.

A pool committee supports it as the best site, and the park site also has the support of many North, South and West Vigo high school parents, he said.

“We’ve looked at every site we can possibly look at, and Voorhees Park stands out as our best location,” he told the board, which did not take action on a site — but is expected to at an October meeting.

Tanoos has submitted a letter to Terre Haute’s mayor and parks board asking them to consider Voorhees as the location for the $9.8 million VCSC aquatics center.

“I hope they would give us a long-term lease for a minimum amount, which I think they will consider,” he said after the meeting.

Tanoos gave a list of 16 sites and reasons why others will not be recommended, including the cost was too high, size too small, not centrally located, possible environmental issues, not available and other reasons.

While the board did not act on a site — and it was not asked to — the board voted unanimously to support the administration in moving forward with the process and to act with “great urgency.”

The administration also will be working to select a project architect and construction manager, which also will require board action.

The School Board is expected to act on a site for the pool at its next meeting, which is scheduled for Oct. 21.

Tanoos said he met last week with a pool committee, swim coaches and concerned parents to talk about site selection.

 Tanoos has previously stated the district and committee were “trying to find the most suitable site that is as centrally located as we can find, also keeping in mind the cost factor.”

The new pool would replace aging pools at the district’s three major high schools.

During a public comment period Monday, about a dozen — including parents and swim coaches — spoke in favor of moving the project forward, and all indicated they would support the Voorhees Park site.

“Wherever you build the pool, we’ll get there,” said Jerrilynn Bayless, who said she is from the north end of town.

Another person said the district “can’t pander to everyone’s whim. … Let’s not quibble over something minor like a mile or two.”

Mary Beth Kline said she was initially concerned about the proposed Voorhees Park location, but after she attended a meeting last week in which Tanoos explained the criteria and reasons, “I began to understand his predicament.”

The criteria were cost, acreage, distance and timeline, and the Vigo County Courthouse was considered a central point.

She said she understood the Voorhees Park site has enough acreage at what’s anticipated to be an affordable cost. She said she can now support that site, if that is the board’s decision.

Jeff Thompson, who has helped lead the charge to get a new pool facility, believes the superintendent and committee are recommending the best site for the best price. “Let’s get moving and get this thing built,” he said. “We’re on borrowed time, and I hope a mile or two doesn’t get in our way.”

Tanoos said the site has 11 acres, and eight would be needed for the aquatics facility.

The site also is good for those who are coming into town, because it is close to restaurants and hotels, Tanoos said. The intent would be to maintain the integrity of the playground and skating park at Voorhees, he said.

One person, Patrick Goodwin, indicated his concern about the Voorhees Park site and asked for continued review of other sites. He favors a more central location.

Preliminary plans call for a swimming center that would be 30,000 square feet. It would house a 25-yard-by-50-meter pool to accommodate swimming and diving; a small therapeutic pool for physical therapy and rehabilitation; seating for 300 to 500 spectators; and space for lockers, offices, concession and storage areas.

The project would be funded through a bond issue, and the goal would be to have it completed for the 2015-16 school year. The goal is to award contracts in late spring or early summer 2014.

Monday night, Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett said the city will now ask the school district “to provide additional information about what the footprint of the building and parking lot might be.”

To this point, there have been no formal discussions, Bennett said. “We have plenty of room at the park.”

The skate park “won’t be touched,” he noted.

The parks department is updating its future plans for the park system, and “We want to reserve space for us to do some things down the road,” Bennett said.

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

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