Tyler ISD trustees gave the go-ahead Thursday for construction of an aquatic center with an Olympic-size uncovered outdoor swimming pool.
The school board approved a construction contract for the center on the grounds of the Career & Technology Center on Earl Campbell Parkway, a central location on the west side of town.
Although it will have a competition swimming pool about the same distance from the district's two high schools, trustees stressed in a lengthy discussion that the aquatic center will not only serve the swimming teams, but all students across the entire district as well as faculty and staff and be used for water safety and swim lessons.
On the recommendation of administrators, the board authorized a $3,754.106 amendment to the district's contract with WRL Contractors to construct the facility. Professional fees of $225,246 will bring total cost of the project to $3,979,352, according to information handed the board.
WRL had already been contracted last February as the construction manager at-risk for the project. At that time, the board also selected Corgan Associates to design the center. Last August, the board specified that cost of the project must not exceed $4 million available from savings accumulated in a fund balance for special projects.
Director of Facilities Tim Loper said earlier he anticipates construction of the aquatic center could be finished next May or June east of the existing automotive building at the Career & Technology Center.
There is plenty of room there for the aquatic center and parking spaces and the site already has utilities, Loper said.
With Trustee Jean Washington absent, the board voted 6 to 0 to approve the construction contract.
After the meeting, board President Andy Bergfeld said, "As a board, we looked at every possibility there was and tried to come up with a common sense approach on how to provide for students. We will do everything we can to keep it under budget and on time. I enjoyed the process of looking at the different ways we could get this project done."
What to do about the district's existing swimming pool - near the intersection of New Copeland Road and Shiloh Road - has been an item the board has looked at for the 15 years he has been involved with Tyler ISD, Bergfeld said. He called it "less than inadequate" and said swimmers are by far the district's "highest performing extracurricular group."
Prior to voting to approve the aquatic center, trustees considered merits of a covered pool versus an uncovered swimming pool, expressions of support from parents and students, the possibility of a community fund drive and a suggestion from Bob Brewer that the district might be able to acquire the city's Fun Forest Park pool. Brewer often speaks during the public participation portion of board meetings.
Approval of the aquatic center was a "tough decision" by the school board, school Superintendent Dr. Marty Crawford said. "In the end, it boils down to students. School boards are entrusted to make sure that they provide the best educational opportunities for students," he said.
The aquatic center will not be fancy and pales in comparison to pools in Rockwall and Garland, Bergfeld said.
Trustee R. Wade Washmon said, "This is us (the board) doing our job for kids of Tyler ISD. We need to get this done."
After Bergfeld said he had been approached by someone in the community about fundraising, board Vice President Dr. Patricia Nation said she could not see prolonging a decision on the issue since previous mentions of fundraising had fizzled.
Bergfeld questioned whether the board might be selling itself short by not getting a covered pool. But swimming Coach Jason Petty, who assisted with the design plans, assured the board that a covered pool would not be more beneficial than an uncovered pool. An uncovered pool can be used year-round, he said.
Building a covered pool could run the costs up about $6 million, the facilities director estimated.
An uncovered pool is more economical and more affordable, the superintendent said.
There is tremendous enthusiasm within the community at large for the aquatic center, trustee Rev. Fritz Hager Jr. said, noting that he has been assured that an outdoor pool can be heated in the winter.
A new walkway and crosswalk at the Career & Technology Center will provide entry to the pool and a deck. A fence will surround the entire facility and leave an area for potential expansion, Stephen Hulsey, of the Dallas-based Corgan architecture firm, told the board in August.
According an architectural rendering, the aquatic center will have spectator seating and lights for after-hours functions, as well as a control room that could be used as a ticket booth, concession area or whatever the district desires.
Adjacent to the pool will be an equipment room and storage room. The complex also will have offices for two coaches, an electrical room, technology room, water fountains and visitor restroom as well as identical locker rooms with showers for boys and girls.
The same brick that was used in construction of the Career and Technology Center will be used for the aquatic center to maintain the same aesthetics.
Although the pool will be uncovered initially, the district could put a cover or construct a building around the pool in the future, Hulsey said.