By GREG RUSSELL
Register Staff Writer
Leonard Park Pool currently has an opening date of Saturday, July 13, following delays sustained by Atlantis Aquatic Group, the project’s third-party contractor.
City Manager Barry Sullivan pointed to inclement weather and lags caused by a lack of special building materials.
“When you’re getting metal from all over the world — or pieces of metal from all over the world — sometimes things get delayed,” he said Wednesday, adding that the project has stayed within budget. “We would already have been open. Our goal was June 1, but we had a very short window of opportunity because the big thing to remember is that we’re paying for this thing with cash.”
Sullivan said the pool will have a final cost of $2.4 million, funded by surplus city sales tax revenue that wasn’t available until late in the past year. The revision of Leonard Park’s pool will result in a full-scale water park that has been in development for more than two years, following a decline of the park’s old pool, and would have begun before the summer pool season of 2012.
“We didn’t know when the money was going to be available until it showed up, and then it was too late in the season to get started,” Sullivan said. “But that’s okay. The important thing is that we’re getting a new pool for the community, it’ll be open this season and I think they’ll be impressed.”
The new water park will feature multiple slides, a diving board and a rock climbing wall, plus the availability of “human hamster” rides.
“We’ll also offer a spray structure in the water itself,” Patrick McCage of the City of Gainesville Parks and Recreation Department said earlier in June. “It’s kind of like a jungle gym with buckets and fountains of water falling on the kids’ heads.”
The new pool’s actual square footage will be slightly smaller than the former pool, but the amenities will be improved. McCage termed the new pool an upgrade the city hasn’t experienced since the installation of the park’s original pool during the 1950s.
“We’ve never had an aquatic center like this in Gainesville, and even though it’s a smaller-sized aquatic center than a Hurricane Harbor, the kids in the area will not have to travel an hour away to get a similar experience,” he said in early June. “This is not even measurable to what we’ve been able to offer before.”
Once open, the new pool facility will offer swimming lessons, private party rentals, evening aerobic classes and a movie night once per month. Such programs were also available at the former Leonard Park pool and now they’re being relaunched into a seven-day-per-week schedule during the summer season.
In early June, McCage said the former pool came to bloom at a time when far fewer cities offered any kind of swimming facility.
“Back in the old days, before aquatic facilities started popping up all over the place, the pool was sufficient, but it’s been in decline over the years,” he said. “Expenses rise and revenues have fallen, and there was no excitement with the old pool. So by implementing the new activities and new amenities with this new pool, this will keep our children local and they can have the same amount of excitement as in a Denton water park or Sherman water park.”
Sullivan explained Wednesday that the pool had originally been budgeted at $1.6 million during its development phase before more surplus funds became available.
“During that time, we started looking at different options,” he said. “And because sales tax kept coming in at a higher and higher rate, we were able to get the products that we think will make it a fantastic addition to Leonard Park.”
Sullivan also said the “interactive” elements of the water park were developed with young visitors in mind, since young participants in nearly any recreation are now accustomed to extra features.
“When we got down to it, we knew we could put in these extra features, now that we had the cash, and this thing will last 20 years or it may last 40 years,” he said. “The last one lasted 60 years, and so this one may last longer than we can imagine. But this is a capital improvement for the benefit of our people.”
By GREG RUSSELL
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