New pool construction starts amid community concerns

Zach Alexander, Mario Faiman, and Matt Kish

Olivia Oliver and Graham Kanwit

The Center Grove school system has recently begun construction on a new natatorium. The decision to construct a new pool stems from community concerns about space in the old pool.

“One of our biggest problems is the middle school seasons and high school seasons happen at the same time, both boys and girls. At any given point, you could have way too many kids who need to swim at the same time in the pool, which we have,” Superintendent Richard Arkanoff said. “Our middle school program tends to get a lot more kids who are interested in it, and unfortunately, since the seasons overlap, the kids are unable to practice all at the same time so we have to stagger it. So we’ll have middle school students in there until 9:00, 9:30 at night.”

Another concern that led to the decision of renovating was the safety of athletes and spectators in the current facilities.

“Then there’s the size of the stands and the location of the stands,” Arkanoff said. “If you’ve been to swim meets, particularly middle school and high school swim meets, they’re pretty much full. And the spectators in our design are pretty much right on the floor. It’s wet, it’s slippery, [especially] for grandmas and grandpas coming in with canes and walkers. It’s just not safe. Plus younger siblings up in the stands coming down and running around the pool and so on and so forth. Being able to create this separation is really important. That physical safety side of it is another key part.”

Arkanoff says the increased length of the new pool from 25m to 50m will also benefit athletes.

“Colleges are looking at those 50-meter times for athletes. So 50-meter swimming is very important at the post-secondary level. You’ll see that that’s another reason why we are looking at and investing in that 50-meter concept,” Arkanoff said.

However, many community members have expressed concern over the 5.3 million dollar increased cost of the pool. Despite this, Arkanoff says the original predicted cost was simply an estimate.

“Back a couple years ago, when we were having this conversation with folks, we were putting together that conceptual piece and then they fine tuned it into exactly what we needed for the swimming pool and we got those rough estimates,” Arkanoff said. “So those rough estimates are probably almost two years old at [the] time. People are saying [what it’s costing] and they do a little projection and they might add 10 or 15 percent to the cost.”

In order to avoid increasing taxes for the pool, the school system had to borrow 45 million dollars. While some of that money went into paying for the pool, the school system also had to pay the contractors and construction workers.

“Then we put [the plan] out, we get the nice technical drawings done, do everything we need to do, and we put it out for what’s called a bid. That’s when the real guys who are going to actually do the work start bidding on the project,” Arkanoff said. “Whether it’s the concrete guys, the wall folks, the guys digging the hole, electricians, plumbers, all of those people. [All of these people] bid on these projects on these projects through their companies. Well, when you have a poor economy, in other words, not a lot of jobs [or construction] going on, people that are looking  for work bid pretty well. They’ll do the job. The cost of labor goes down a little bit and you can get a pretty good price on it. When the economy is good and a lot of people are building, then the price starts to go up because there’s less people to do the work. They’re busy working.”

Additionally, contractors affected the timeline of the completion of the pool’s construction, which has been pushed back to the summer of 2021.

“When we did Walnut Grove, we did that at a great time and the bids came in lower than estimates. When we bid the pool, the economy had kind of ramped up and was going really well so people were building stuff,” Assistant Superintendent of Operations Bill Long said. “We had several contractors who worked on Walnut Grove who said [they’re] too busy to bid on the high school pool project. The scope from the conceptual idea to the final idea grew a little bit and then the bid environment changed and it caused the prices to be a little bit higher than we thought they would be.”

In addition to the new pool, the administration plans to use some of the $45 million to renovate classrooms with new technology and grow the student population to 3,000.

“In the entire high school renovation project, I believe we borrowed $45 million to do this project. That includes all of the work we are going to do to renovate classrooms in the high school and do some improvements in the high school kind of like what you see in the media center. We’re trying to get more classrooms updated and renovated. When we move the swimming pool, we want to revamp the old swimming pool space into the new art area,” Arkanoff said. “Our vision here at Center Grove is that everyone receives an exceptional educational experience so we want to make sure every environment is exceptional.”