January 17, 2023 at 2:53 p.m.
Program growth, pool issues spur construction of new aquatic facility
Editor’s note: The Star Post will feature each of the three components of the Feb. 14 $34,805,000 bond referendum over the next three issues – Restore and Rebuild Our Aging Community Spaces $18,435,000, Provide Safety and ADA Accessibility for All $4,305,000 and Invest in Career and Technical Education Classrooms $8,185,000. Other project pricing includes site improvements $2,175,000 and interest and issuance costs $1,705,000.
For the kids and the community.
That’s how Melrose Area High School swimming and diving coach Nathan Meyer described a new eight-lane, 25-yard long by 20-yard wide pool and 350-seat spectator section, along with other new and upgraded amenities in the Restore and Rebuild Our Aging Community Spaces component of a proposed $34,805,000 facilities project school district residents will vote on Feb. 14.
“It’s not just about the competitive part, it’s about the accessibility for everyone who wants to use the pool,” Meyer said Jan. 11 before the start of his school day, as a teacher at Melrose Area Public Schools. “You have a variety of swim lessons in the pool, including for elementary age students. The pool is also used for educational purposes for phy-ed classes. There are students and adults with special needs that use the facility as well as a fair amount of older people who use it.”
Meyer has been somewhat involved in the planning process and said the biggest misconception is that the plan was solely to construct a big pool to host large swimming and diving meets. He said the scope of the pool portion of the project has been pared down to what is cost effective.
“We’re talking about a basic eight-lane pool with spectator space that will accommodate dual meets and smaller invites, not a huge Olympic size pool,” he said.
New pool construction would occur southeast of the current pool.
This $18,435,000 aging component includes replacing the high school gym floor for $685,000, replacing existing tennis courts for $835,000, a secured community entrance lobby and changing rooms for $1,930,000, conversion of the current pool space into a multi-purpose space for $1,615,000, storm shelter code mandated requirements for $2,140,000 and constructing an eight-lane, 25-yard pool with spectator seating for $11,230,000.
Superintendent Greg Winter, on Jan. 11, said before moving ahead with plans for a new pool, the school board discussed renovating the current pool area with a pool consultant.
“We were not given an exact dollar amount, just a recommendation from the pool consultant that it would not be cost-effective to renovate the pool,” Winter said. “Even if you spent the money to renovate the pool, you would still have a small pool deck and not enough spectator capacity.”
The pool was built in 1969 with six lanes.
“Six lanes were standard in 1969 and now eight lanes are standard,” he said. “The more space you have, the more you can utilize that with lessons and for community members, as well.”
The spectator balcony currently holds 175 people and would increase to 350 under the proposed plan.
“Swim programs have grown since it was built in ’69 and there are more spectators,” Meyer said. “When we host a dual meet, there isn’t enough room for everyone to watch, particularly with girls’ meets, and we’ve had to send people home. We can’t add any more seating in that area.”
More deck space is also needed.
Meyer said the pool is showing its age. As a 1999 Melrose graduate and swimming and diving athlete, he said, the pool was not as functional as it could have been and has become worse.
While upgrades and maintenance have been done, it is getting to the point that it is not cost effective to keep “putting a Band-Aid” on it, he said.
“There are issues with ventilation. The pumps and interworking of the pool are old,” Meyer said. “Areas are just worn out.”
The diving area does not meet the National Federation of High School’s recommended minimum depth for competition. Currently it is 10.5 feet deep, and the recommended depth is 12 feet.
“We’ve had kids who get down to the bottom quickly,” he said. “Our kids know how to dive safely, but for kids coming from other schools used to the standard depth, it is an adjustment and requires caution.”
There would not be a diving well with the proposed pool.
“It will just be a pool with two diving boards instead of one,” he said.
Controlling temperatures and chemicals in the pool are challenging. There is just a small crawl space for storage and the pool office is outdated, Meyer said.
He said pool usage is a big thing, with close to 1,250 pool participants a year. The pool is used during all three athletic seasons – for girls swimming and diving, boys swimming and diving and synchronized swimming.
“A pool that is used three seasons is rare, especially out of the metro area,” he said. “And in the summer, it’s probably one of the most used spaces at the school, on weekdays being utilized non-stop from 6 a.m. to about 8 p.m.”
Winter said the proposed pool facility would be compliant with the American With Disabilities Act to assist people who have challenges, including a ramping system in the pool. An elevator would go to the spectator balcony where there would be an area for people with wheelchairs.
The current pool area would be converted into a multi-purpose space for school and community activities, including dance and wrestling teams and for community education.
As part of the aging component, Winter said the tennis courts, used by the girls tennis team, physical education classes and community members, would be resurfaced.
The polyurethane floor in the high school gym will be replaced with a wood floor.
“The floor is not a competitive floor. It’s polyurethane over concrete,” Winter said. “There is no give to that floor. A regular wood floor has 45% give in the floor so with a fall there is more give and more safety.”
Winter said school districts with new construction are required by state code to build a storm shelter.
“Part of that came out of the tornado that decimated Wadena and their high school 10 years ago,” Winter said.
More bond referendum information will be presented during the two remaining community meetings at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 18, at Extra Innings Bar & Grill, 102 Lake Henry Ave. S., Spring Hill; and 7 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 19, at Meire Grove City Hall, 50 MN-4 S., Meire Grove.
There are four voting options. Voting will be Feb. 14 at the Melrose City Center, 225 First St., NE, in Melrose. Absentee voting is available at the Melrose Area Public Schools district office, 546 Fifth Ave., NE, Melrose, weekdays from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., now through Feb. 13. Enter through door No. 7. An absentee ballot can be mailed to district residents by contacting Melrose Area Public Schools at 320-256-5160, or residents can print an absentee ballot application on the district website and mail, fax or email it to the county.
If the bond referendum passes, the design phase would be from March to October with construction starting in February 2024 and an August 2025 completion date.