Does Natchitoches need an indoor pool?

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By Juanice Gray jgray@natchitochestimes.com

Everything, great or small, has to start somewhere. The vision of an indoor pool for Natchitoches began Monday, July 30 with a brainstorming session. Don Barker arranged the meeting to see if there was interest in the idea. As Barker said, “Holy Moly,” there was indeed interest. The room was filled with citizens, who for their own reasons ranging from exercise to competition, attended to share ideas.

Mayor Lee Posey, right, and Dr. Brett Rodriguez, left, discussed cost to build an indoor pool with members of their breakout session group.

Barker began by stating the meeting was the ground floor to propose the concept to the public and to begin the organization process. Mayor Lee Posey spoke first, recapping his trip to Ruston Monday to see their indoor pool facility first hand. He said they had a 25-yard pool that cost approximately $7-10 million to construct with an overhead of $200,000 annually to operate and maintain. He said the facility took several years to plan before it became a reality. Barker stated the foremost questions were where to build, the design, cost, maintenance and operations.

Breakout sessions addressed these questions. Participants submitted their ideas and a spokesperson for each group relayed those ideas to the crowd.

Lyle Alford spoke for his group concerning specifications for the proposed facility. He included a front desk, shower/restroom area, a sloped pool from 6 feet on one end to 13-15 feet on the diving end, blocks, a lifeguard station, admin area and other suggestions that emerged from the breakout session.

Lyle Alford, a Natchitoches Central graduate attending college in Arkansas drove down to provide his input. He spoke for the group whose ideas were for the kind of facility to build. Alford said some recommendations were an eight-lane 25-yard pool with diving board, parking, a secondary pool for aerobics and physical therapy and an ADA ramp for starters.

Dr. Brett Rodriguez spoke for the group addressing cost issues. He said as a physician, he sees the health benefits of an indoor pool. His group determined approximate cost, based loosely on Posey’s figures from Ruston, to build would be $315 per square foot with $25 per square foot annually to operate.

Doug Cain spoke on behalf of the group tasked with finding funding. He said no idea was off the table. Their suggestions included everything from a tax millage, grants, to memberships, donations and sponsorships.

Natalie Covher represented the group that addressed the location issue. She said the NSU campus would be ideal, especially near the new sports complex where parking would be available. Another idea was covering and renovating the existing NSU pool.

Many of the ideas submitted would require cooperative endeavors with entities such as the City, NSU or Natchitoches Regional Medical Center, none of whom have been approached.

Don Barker organized the initial meeting. He said an indoor pool would be an asset to the community and a “difference maker in the quality of life.”

Barker closed the meeting saying good ideas were proposed to “plan it, construct it and run it” and the next step would be to contact interested parties and bring more stakeholders to the table.

A second meeting will be in approximately one month.

To voice your ideas, a Facebook page called “Natchitoches Needs A Pool” was established.