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Telegraph Herald (Dubuque, IA)
BEN JACOBSON TH staff writer *

After more than a half-hour of debating and prioritizing, Fred Bounds' group had whittled dozens of possible aquatic center features down to about 15 preferences.

Taped together in descending order of importance, the list of proposed amenities stretched more than 6 feet long. Topped by an eight-lane competitive swimming pool, the list also included smaller therapy and leisure pools, a classroom, an event hall and an aerobics/dance studio.

Should the Dubuque Community School District and the city of Dubuque ultimately agree to partner on construction of a new community aquatic center, the group's suggestions should make for a cost-effective and functional facility, Bounds said.

"We tried to look at both (aspects)," said Bounds, a Dubuque parent of three competitive swimmers, during a public input session Tuesday at Carnegie-Stout Public Library. "I think everybody's concerned that cost is going to be too high, but I thought we, at least in our small group, achieved a good balance of the things we felt that were needed in order to have a competitive pool but still bring in some of the revenue-generating opportunities for the community."

The school district's current swimming facilities at Hempstead High School are antiquated, plagued by maintenance issues and otherwise ill-equipped to host competitive events, officials have said. As the district moves forward with plans to build a swimming venue, the city has been asked to consider partnering with the district to create a community aquatic center.

About $7 million has been set aside by district officials. Outside of $50,000 to pay half of the fees for project consultants, city officials have not budgeted any money for the project and have not prepared cost projections.

Over the course of two meetings Tuesday, a consultant group headed by Novak Design Group, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, gathered citizen hopes and dreams for the potential project. About 15 people attended the morning meeting, which included a short presentation and a brainstorming session.

Ultimately, consultants must help city and district officials determine whether the project is feasible.

"We're asking the individuals from the community that have come to see us today to tell us what they would like to see in a facility and to prioritize those elements, so that we can present ideas to the city and the school district," said Chuck Musgrave, principal and CFO of Denver-based Barker Rinker Seacat Architecture.

Though discussion was meant to gauge the community's interest, Musgrave and the consultant team presented examples from aquatic centers in other communities. Some have classrooms, day care areas and even cafes.

Avoiding the duplication of services was important to some meeting attendees. Possible aquatic center amenities, like a fitness center, already are available elsewhere, according to Karen Sisler.

"We have a lot of fitness centers in Dubuque. We have the Y," she said. "I think (what was presented) was a lot of duplication of those things."

Musgrave said some features, like the competitive pool, are expensive to maintain and bring in little revenue. Others, like a fitness center, have a relatively low cost and generate substantial user fees.

"Facilities that are successful have to, in the end, generate a little money," Musgrave said, explaining that amenities must be picked to complement each other. "It's not about, 'One (option) is good. One is not good.' It's about, 'What's the right combination so we don't have to spend a lot of money to operate the facility?'"

In addition to Musgrave, the consulting team includes an aquatic specialist and finance expert. The group will hold a second set of meetings April 22 at Five Flags Center.


March 26, 2014




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