Is it summer yet?

Better public pools being readied for Columbia this year

Maxcy Gregg pool gets makeover; Greenview upgrades pending

cleblanc@thestate.comJanuary 3, 2013 

Workers apply gunite to the renovated and enlarged Maxcy Gregg Park pool. Work on Columbia's most expensive pool is to be finished in February. The rest of the upgrades will be done in time for the start of swim season on Memorial Day, city officials said.

TIM DOMINICK — tdominick@thestate.com Buy Photo

— Competitive and recreational swimmers are likely to be racing or splashing in two vastly improved public outdoor pools in Columbia this year.

But it could cost more to use the facilities.

The city’s most expensive pool, the rebuilt, $1.72 million facility at Maxcy Gregg Park, is on target to be ready by the opening of Columbia’s swim season on Memorial Day, officials with the city and the contractor said.

“It’s going to be brand new. Bigger. Better,” Scot Riley, Columbia’s athletics director said of the pool along Blossom Street near the USC campus. “The thing was 60 years old.”

Meanwhile, City Council is weighing how much it is willing to spend to upgrade or replace the pool in Greenview Park in north Columbia.

Fees for the use of city pools might rise as costs mount. City Council has yet to address that question, which could be included in a master recreation plan being readied to meet Columbia’s future needs.

The biggest part of the work on the Maxcy Gregg pool was done by mid-December, said Mike Satterwhite, an official with MB Kahn, which has the contract for the pool and other improvements at the downtown park.

“We’re on schedule to be done the end of February,” Satterwhite said of the enlarged pool. The remainder of the contract includes upgrading the pool deck, gutting and renovating the bathhouse, and replacing the pool’s chlorine-based filtration system with one that is saltwater-based.

The pool and the bathhouse will meet federal standards for handicap accessibility, Satterwhite and Riley said.

Columbia parks director Jeff Caton said Maxcy Gregg will have a portable, hydraulic lift to help physically challenged swimmers in and out of the water. “It’s going to be a safer, more accessible pool,” Caton said.

The pool will be eight feet wider, but not longer. The pool – to be widened to 25 meters – will allow the city to attract more swimming meets, which can bring income, Caton said. “It makes a stronger case for us to host those larger events.”

In the past, the pool has hosted some competitive city, state and regional teams; a summer swim league; masters swimmers up to 90 years old; and public and private high school teams, but just for practice sessions, Riley said.

The 1800-square-foot bathhouse will have about four additional showers and the same number of toilets, some to accommodate physically challenged swimmers, Satterwhite said. The new look will include new paint and a slip-resistant floor.

Caton describes the changes as “a total rehab of the interior.”

That work should be finished by the end of this month, Satterwhite said.

Renovate or new pool at Greenview?

Last month, council was presented with three option for Greenview that range from $300,000 for renovation of the current junior-Olympic pool to $2.8 million for the city’s second indoor pool.

In 2005, the city opened the $8.8 million Drew Wellness Center, a fitness facility off Harden Street that includes an enclosed pool. That center has been a money-loser for Columbia taxpayers.

A renovated Greenview pool, economically the most feasible option, could be ready by the end of summer, senior assistant city manager Allison Baker told council. An indoor pool would take a year or more to complete.

A bigger pool requires new changing rooms and other features to satisfy state sanitation requirements. An indoor pool would require more maintenance because of corrosion caused by the moisture, Baker told council.

Stanley McIntosh, the longtime coach of Greenview’s swim team, has said he prefers a new pool. “I want us to get what everybody else gets,” he said in November.

Council members plan to explain the choices to Greenview community leaders and residents to gather their reaction.

The amount of money council already has spent on Maxcy Gregg has drawn critics. Former Councilman Daniel Rickenmann called the $2.25 million spent on the park “extravagant.”

“We have several parks that would just like to have fresh grass,” Rickenmann said last year, when council added $750,000 to raise the Maxcy Gregg pool’s price tag to $1.72 million.

Reach LeBlanc at (803) 771-8664.

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