SHERIDAN — A group of residents calling themselves the Citizens for Community Recreation announced this week plans to change the landscape of Sheridan’s recreational pools.
The group hopes to build an indoor aquatics facility that would host family swim programs similar to what is currently provided by the YMCA and the Sheridan Recreation District. It would also be available for open swims like what are offered at Kendrick Pool in the summer.
Sheridan Recreation District Executive Director Richard Wright said he got involved with the group because the district has a vested interest in aquatics programs in the community. In addition, he said, none of the groups in Sheridan pursuing a solution to the aging pool system have the resources to go it alone.
“We’re searching for ways and ideas from the community — the best way to tackle this challenge that we all kind of inherited,” Wright said Thursday. “We’re all struggling with aquatics — the school district, the rec district and the Y. It is very important to the community.”
But what’s wrong with the pools Sheridan already has?
Pools have been a point of discussion in the community for some time.
In 2012, a steering committee formed to determine the plausibility of rebuilding the outdoor pool at Kendrick Park.
The pool was originally built in 1937 and is owned by the city.
The facility operates at a loss nearly every year, though it has been largely subsidized with profits from the Kendrick Park ice cream stand.
Much of that deficit can be blamed on ongoing maintenance issues related to the facility’s age. TSP Architects completed an assessment of the pool earlier this month. The report outlines costs required to keep the pool operational for another five to 10 years.
“This report does not attempt to address deficiencies and remedial solutions to return the facility to ‘as new’ condition,” the assessment’s introduction reads. “To do so would require replacement of most or all of the existing components.”
The list of fixes suggested by TSP to extend the life of the public pool total more than $725,000.
The YMCA pools, while newer, also have infrastructure challenges. YMCA Executive Director Jay McGinnis said the original pools were built in 1964 and they function for health and fitness classes alongside swim lessons. But, the design limits additional opportunities.
For example, he said, there is no zero-entry pool, which makes it difficult for children under the age of 6 to touch the bottom of the pool. This can make swim instruction difficult.
In addition, the stairs into and out of the pool area from the locker rooms are narrow and difficult for those with disabilities to navigate. The deck area around the pools is not best suited for family open swims.
While open swims tend to be the highest attended activity at most pools, it is the smallest activity at the YMCA because of the facility’s limitations.
The infrastructure problems facing both Kendrick Park and the YMCA pools mean solutions are needed to provide future aquatics opportunities to the Sheridan community.
Does Sheridan need a pool?
In 2013, the Sheridan Recreation District conducted a survey regarding the possibility and community need for a new pool.
The survey had about 630 responses. Of those, 95 percent thought Sheridan should have an outdoor pool and about 90 percent thought it should stay where it is in Kendrick Park.
Community members’ use of the pool also remains strong. The recreation district recorded attendance of more than 18,750 throughout the 2012 season and Wright said numbers are typically around or above 20,000 visitors each summer.
An assessment recently conducted by MIG consultants out of Portland also indicates a need for aquatics facilities in the area. The report indicates that swimming is popular in Sheridan and there is some unmet need for recreational swimming.
What happens next?
As a way to solve Sheridan’s pool problems, the Citizens for Community Recreation hope to build a new indoor facility with a combination of public and private dollars.
The group has discussed where the new facility could be located and what it could include, but hope to hear additional input from the community.
Studies have also shown that community pools located on the outskirts of town typically don’t do as well as those located centrally, so the Citizens for Community Recreation hope to keep the facility close to its current location.
McGinnis said he believes a new indoor facility would cost approximately $10-12 million, depending on the features included. Members of the organized committee have said they believe they can raise about half of that, maybe more, in private donations.
The other half, though, would likely come in the form of support from the city of Sheridan and Sheridan County.
McGinnis added that there is a petition circulating that allows community members to voice their support for the use of tax dollars for the project.
In addition, on Aug. 2, Kendrick Park pool will be open free to the public from 1-7 p.m.
Members of the Citizens for Community Recreation will be on site to answer questions in regards to their plans and to gather input from the community.