Recreation projects moving forward

Chad Frey
The Kansan

The hot, dry weather of recent weeks has meant that a project to renovate the Newton Municipal Pool has remained on schedule — that means the pool could reopen at the end of July. 

"We are still planning for July 31 and hope to have some sort of grand opening or ribbon cutting event. We are wokring on getting that scheduled," said Erin McDaniel, public information director for the city of Newton. 

Work to renovate the Newton Municipal Pool is progressing, and a target for a July 31 opening is realistic. The Newton Rec Commission would be able to open the pool for about two weeks before school begins.

The facility, located in the north portion of Athletic Park, is owned by the city and operated by the Newton Recreation Commission. 

If contractors can hit the July 31 date, the pool could be open for about two weeks before school begins for Newton USD 373. 

School is scheduled to start Aug. 13. 

"That is something we need to evaluate," said Brian Bascue, superintendent of the Newton Recreation Commission. "We lose a lot of our [lifeguards] to school. The following Monday is when activities begin. We lose a lot of guards to that. ... We will have reevaluate that once school starts."

Bascue said the Recreation Commission will consider weekend hours for the pool after the start of school, if the organization can retain enough lifeguards for operation. The new pool will require more guards on staff — needing 14 guards active while the pool is in operation. 

"We have to have more guards than we have had in the past. There will be more features," Bascue said. "... I think the public is going to really enjoy this new pool."

This is the first major project to renovate the facility since 1993.

When construction of the new pool is complete, there will be features for small children — even though the baby pool will be gone to make room for a zero-entry area and a lazy river. 

The project includes replacement of the existing pool with a six-lane lap pool with a 12-foot deep end; a zero-depth entry area, small lazy river, inflatables and climbing wall, spray feature, family slide and toddler slide; renovation of the bath house; new shade structures and diving boards, chairs, lighting, fencing; and a spray pad

A new "runout slide" was also able to be added with no additional cost. A runout slide drops the rider into a small splash area on the pool deck rather than into the pool itself. The runout slide will be taller than the existing pool slide, which will be refurbished and painted.

"This project will have three, actually 3 1/2 slides. The half slide is a toddler slide," said Suzanne Loomis. director of public works for the city of Newton. 

The slide that was at the pool one year ago will be refurbished, while a family slide, a run out slide that does not end up in the pool and toddler slide will be added to the facility. 

"I think this will be great for our community," Bascue said. 

The project was discussed for about three years, with delays forcing the hands of the city in the area of the pool.

The budget for the new pool is about $2.7 million — part of a larger project that includes the reconfiguration of Centennial Park to add baseball/softball fields. 

The Centennial Park project took a jump forward this week, when the Public Building Commission approved final specifications and a bid calendar. Bids for the project are due back July 14. 

Distribution of plans to contractors began June 25.

"The idea is if we get promising bids to start construction the first of August," Bascue said.  

Depending on the bids and alternates, that project could mean two new fields at the park along with lighting and a grass infield for the current Roger Gillesipie field. Kenny Williams Field, currently used for Newton Baseball Club teams (Players in middle school and below), will be regraded fenced to help with drainage. 

Bascue said the hope is grass seeding for all the fields will begin in spring. 

This comes on the heels of a 2018 project, completed in time for the 2020 summer, to add new bathrooms and press box facilities at Klein Scott Field. 

"It is starting to look really nice," Bascue said. "It is going to look different, and it is going to look really nice. It will be a process over several year to get it to 100 percent."

A year ago the commission voted to make interest-only payments for three years on bonds issued for the project.

To pay interest only for three years, the Newton Recreation Commission and city payments would be about $28,000 per year for the first two years, dropping to $8,500 for the NRC and city with the Public Building Commission paying $40,000. The PBC would take over all payments in year four. It will cost an additional $95,000 in interest to make interest only for the first three years.