Fundraising is first step to indoor pool

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By Carolyn Roy, carolyn@natchitochestimes.com

Organizers of the effort to build an indoor swimming pool in Natchitoches say it could cost from $12 million to $15 million but they believe that it is a possibility. Don Barker and J. W. Scarborough conducted the meeting Tuesday evening at the Natchitoches Arts Center to present information they have gathered since the first meeting of indoor pool enthusiasts in July. The attendance at the first meeting was about 150 and numbered about 25 Tuesday evening.

“This is somewhere night,” Barker said. “We have to start somewhere.”

The immediate goal is to obtain 501 C3 non-profit status, file articles of incorporation, appoint a board and begin fundraising. Applying for non-profit status and filing the articles of incorporation could cost as much as $2,300 and take as long as six months. The official name of the group is Natchitoches Community Health and Exercise Education Association. Barker and Scarborough have begun fundraising and donations as of Tuesday total $395. Of the total, $150 is a pledge. They will accept donations of at least $10 that can be given to Scarborough at his florist business, S&S Flowers, at 702 University Parkway. The money will be deposited in an account at LaCapitol Federal Credit Union. Barker said they will search for at least five members for the board that can be expanded to 15. He expects the first five members to serve for at least four years.

They will be tasked with seeking advice on a location and raising money. “We want people who are dedicated, not just to say they are on the board,” Barker said. Barker and Scarborough have been busy since the July meeting. They have met with YMCA of Northwest Louisiana officials in Shreveport where the YMCA has a two-pool complex on Knight Street. They say the officials there have been generous with their time to discuss their pool construction.

The team also visited with officials and pool architects at La. Tech University to discuss the indoor pool that is part of the Lambright Sports and Wellness Center. The pool architects estimate, that to build a similar eight-lane natatorium, dressing rooms, pool equipment/mechanical, would cost $7.2 million. That does not include site costs, site utility costs, parking and drives, landscaping, furniture, furnishings, scoreboard or equipment, topographical survey, soil investigation report, professional fees, and review fees to regulatory agencies.

Scarborough said the entire center at La. Tech University sees 2,000 people per day, students are assessed a fee of $110 per semester and the pool is open seven days a week. The center generates revenue that is used on the campus. The sports and wellness center was financed by the sale of bonds. Barker said that Northwestern State President Dr. Chris Maggio and Natchitoches Mayor Lee Posey are on board with the project and referred to AT&T, McDonald’s, Burger King, Christus Health System, Willis Knighton Hospitals, Ochsner Health System, United Way, Rapides Foundation, local banks, business and industry and casinos as other sources of support. Another possibility is a sales or property tax. He hopes local governmental entities might assume operation and maintenance costs once the pool is built. Barker believes West Natchitoches would be the best location and the amount of money raised will determine the size of the pool.

He envisions a pool with eight lanes and seating for 1,000 people and swim club and competitive swimming meets. Council on Aging Director Alice Barrios said the indoor pool would be a wonderful thing for Natchitoches and her organization has been working for five years to obtain a pool that would be beneficial for seniors. Barker said he knows securing the pool is a long shot. “This is the last thing I will ever do to make this community better. This is where my heart is.” He believes the pool would attract business and industry and also students to Northwestern State.

The next meeting will be scheduled at the end of March.