Aquatics Center is a necessity for community

Ames voters recently approved a bond issue to raise $8.488 million for construction of a new aquatics center on 13th street. The unprecedented voter turnout and overwhelming majority of the vote is a welcome sign that Ames is taking our recreation seriously. We have one of the lowest numbers of public gymnasiums per capita in central Iowa, and are one of the few communities of our size across Iowa lacking an outdoor family aquatic recreation center – even Nevada, a community an eighth the size of Ames, has such a facility. Ames residents are drawn to Nevada in favor of our old and badly located Carr Pool. Carr is over 80 years old and long overdue for replacement – it now is in constant need of maintenance and repair. A few weeks ago, a valve burst and the pool was closed for repairs. An estimated $125,000 would be required for various repairs before the pool opens again next season, and only more will come as the pool continues to age. Though the upkeep of an aging pool does not seem to compare to the daunting $8.488 million required for the new Aquatics center, the actual cost to Ames residents will be minimal. Thanks to the increased attendance counts and slightly higher admission fees, the actual cost of construction for Ames residents has been calculated as $1.89 per household per month. A vocal minority opposed the vote, hoping to retain Carr Pool as a neighborhood pool in northeast Ames. Though the concept of neighborhood pools would be nice for Ames, it is impractical to apply citywide now. Keeping Carr instead of building a new aquatics center would be a burden and inconvenience to most of the population. It is located near the eastern edge of Ames, a very inconvenient position for the majority of the population. This, in combination with its age, has dropped Ames pool attendance by nearly 50% over the past ten years. In contrast, attendance at the Nevada pools quadrupled after the completion of their aquatic center. Similar success with a similarly sized aquatic center in Ames would bring pool visits above 80,000 in 2009. This would make our aquatics division far more self-sufficient and less of a tax burden and provide Ames residents with an option aside from driving to Nevada to visit an aquatics center. The budget and plans include provisions for a new streetlight on 13th at the site of the future aquatic center, which should ease any potential problems caused by additional traffic. We may continue to hear opposition from those who wish to retain their neighborhood pool, but this aquatics center is right for Ames. It will provide a much-needed accessible facility, provide an enormous boost to our pools, and provide a long-term economic benefit to our community – for as little as two dollars per month.