Sunday, August 19, 2001

Aquatic center gets OK

Florence forges on with plan

By Terry Flynn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FLORENCE — City council members have decided to move forward with plans for a $2 million aquatic center and skating facility on a large plot of land behind the government center on Ewing Boulevard.

        Following a weekend retreat in Lexington last week, council members and Mayor Diane Whalen agreed the city should begin the design process for construction of the aquatic and skate facilities on the remaining 15 acres of city property.

        A survey of the city's recreational needs performed for the city by Brandstetter Carroll, Inc., of Lexington recommended the area behind the government center as the best location for an aquatic center.

        “We haven't discussed specific costs at this point, but it's safe to say what Florence is looking at would run in the area of $2 million- $2.5 million,” said Pat Hoagland, an architect and principal with Brandstetter Carroll who was in charge of the recreation master plans for Florence and Boone County.

        Mayor Whalen said there was no timetable for the aquatic center project, but said council hoped the planning and financing work could be completed to start construction sometime in 2002.

        During the 2001-02 city budgeting process, council decided to become more involved in providing first-class recreational outlets for the citizens.

        “We want to make sure the residents of Florence are getting the best bang for the

        bucks they pay in city taxes, and addressing the recreational needs of our city is one way we can provide that,” she said.

        The mayor said the aquatic center and skate facility would be financed through bonds. She said council members discussed the debt service the bonds would create during the retreat.

        “We are convinced this is a doable project, and something that can be adequately financed,” she said. “That's why we agreed to proceed with the plan.”

        Councilman Mel Carroll said residents of Florence “deserve more (services) because we pay more” in both city and county taxes.

        Mr. Hoagland said the aquatic center would be more than just a swimming pool, with large shallow areas for the younger children, water slides, interactive water sprays, shade shelters and concessions.

        The skate facility would be for inline skates, roller skates and skate boards, and would cater primarily to a preteen and teen-age clientele, making use of the concessions at the aquatic center.

        Boone County Judge-executive Gary Moore said the county would continue to work closely with Florence “to develop plans together and work for the best for all the people in the county.”

        The county is negotiating with the YMCA for the acquisition of the YMCA facility at Main Street and Turfway Road in Florence, to convert it to a county recreation/swimming facility.

        “The Florence plan gives us a better idea of what we want to focus on,” Mr. Moore said. “We can focus more at the YMCA on the year-round programming, such as the the indoor pool and the gymnasium ... more of the community center aspect of what it brought to the county.”

        Mr. Moore said he believed an aquatic center in Florence and an aquatic center at the proposed new YMCA at Boone Woods in Burlington would both be successful.

        Surveys done for the county's recreation master plan showed that an aquatic facility topped the list of desired recreational outlets.

        Mr. Hoagland pointed out that swimming is the No.2 recreational activity in the U.S., behind walking/jogging.

        “All our local recreation sur veys show aquatic facilities rated first or second on everyone's list of desired recreational activities/facilities,” he said.


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