Monday, January 14, 2002

Water park gets go-ahead

Council agrees it's time for project

By Terry Flynn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FLORENCE — Come summer 2003, Florence residents will be splashing in a new family aquatic center, complete with a winding river-like feature for tubing and a competition swimming pool.

        City council members agree that plans should proceed to build the $4 million aquatic center in the south end of the government center property off Ewing Boulevard.

        “We want to start construction by June (2002) and be open on Memorial Day 2003,” Florence Mayor Diane Whalen said. “It's an ambitious endeavor to be ready to open that soon, but this (aquatic center) has been a priority of this council for some time.”

        The mayor said the center, which would be built with revenue bonds, would be able to pay for itself through membership fees and concession revenues. She said the city probably will have one admission fee for Florence residents and another for people living outside the city.

        The concept plan/drawing presented to council at a caucus meeting last week by planners from Brandstetter Carroll, Inc., of Lexington shows a large area of what is called “zero depth,” a few inches of water with a variety of sprays, jets and slides for young children.

        The concept also features a “Lazy River” that winds through one end of the center with a constant current for tubing or floating; water slides; a swimming pool with designated competition lanes and a diving well; children's “spraygrounds” separate from the main water area; and a concession area.

        “We've done over 100 swimming pools and aquatic centers in Ohio and Kentucky over about 20 years,” said Pat Hoagland, engineer for Brandstetter Carroll. "We've emphasized that old-style pools that had too much of what we call "swim coach influence' weren't best for a family center. Kids are probably 10-11 years old before they're comfortable going into at least 3-4 feet of water, which is the shallow end of the older pools.”

        He said the design concept for the Florence facility features a large area of zero depth, with lots of slides and steps, that are not only attractive to the little kids but can be enjoyed by persons with disabilities.

        Mr. Hoagland, who has worked with several Northern Kentucky cities and counties on parks and recreational master plans, said he thought the aquatic center in Florence “will go over like gangbusters.”

        “It certainly won't be the last aquatic center in Northern Kentucky,” he predicted. “Swimming pools and water parks are the second-most-used form of recreation, after walking/running (facilities),” he said.

        Boone County Fiscal Court has been considering a plan that would include purchase of two YMCA facilities, in Florence and Union, to be converted to county recreation centers and swimming pools. The county has discussed providing the YMCA with property in Boone Woods park for a new YMCA.

        Boone County Judge-executive Gary Moore had previously indicated that an aquatic center in Florence would not prevent the county from moving ahead with its own plans for the recreation and swimming facilities.

        Covington is building a spraypark as part of the new sports complex in Latonia, according to Assistant City Manager Tom Steidel. “It's not an aquatic center, just a soft pad with water shooting up for the little kids to run through,” he said.


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