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Times Record News (Wichita Falls, Texas)
The YMCA is pulling the plug on its popular Bill Bartley Family Branch outdoor pool, sacrificing the swim facility as the organization gets ready to take the plunge on a $14 million expansion project.
"The current outdoor pool at the Bartley Branch is 35 years old with 35-year-old parts/piping/pumps. We have all enjoyed it, but it's come to the end of its functional life," said Noel Filer, Mission Advancement Director.
Bill Bartley's pool is the only outdoor option among the Wichita Falls YMCA's three branches. The other two locations - the Downtown and East branches - operate indoor pools that are open to all YMCA members.
Not that the Bill Bartley Branch will be permanently without a pool.
One of the additions in Phase II of the YMCA upgrades will be a new indoor swim facility.
Filer said, "We're not just taking away the (Bill Bartley outdoor) pool. As part of Phase II, an eight-lane indoor pool will be added. ... It will be available for free swim, lap swim and swim meets."
One of the big activities at the Bill Bartley Branch during the summer is swim lessons, which this summer will move to the Downtown and East branches.
"Swim lessons, in particular, are so important to us," Filer said, adding that the pool closing "is a temporary inconvenience that will lead to greater amenities."
Other activities at Bill Bartley this summer will not be affected by the construction.
"All of our regular activities will take place as it normally has," Filer said. "... It will be business as usual with all of our programs with the exception of the pool area."
Phase I of the expansion project is expected to last 14 to 16 months with a completion date somewhere in mid-2018.
The YMCA will kick off the capital project with a groundbreaking event from 5:30 to 7 p.m. April 25 at the Bill Bartley Branch, 5001 Bartley Dr., that will include music, hot dogs, inflatable slides and bounce houses.
The capital project will add 80,000 square feet to the facility.
Plans include an early childhood and youth development center with infant/toddler/preschool classrooms, before- and after-school rooms, a youth library, cafeteria, conference room and age-appropriate playgrounds.
YMCA members also will see a full double-court gymnasium with stadium seating, an indoor soccer/multipurpose facility, gymnastics center and grand entry plaza.
Filer is excited, she said, about the new grand entry area. It will be built where the current pool is now located with space left to add the indoor pool in Phase 2.
The new entry, designed to improve traffic flow, will include 40-foot glass walls and will be where the front desk will be relocated.
"There was no place for people to sit around and enjoy each other's company," she said. "... It's going to have tables and trees on the inside and a juice bar."
Filer added that with these new facilities, the YMCA could add youth and adult indoor soccer and volleyball leagues, 7-on-7 football, gymnastics meets, early childhood education, expanded programs for school-age children and reading/learning programs in the new youth library, to name a few possibilities.
Also, a new road will be built on the south side of the property that will lead to a parking lot in the back and almost 200 additional parking spaces. That back area will give access to the back sports complex, where the double gymnasium, indoor soccer/multipurpose facility and gymnastics center will be located.
Filer sees this expansion project as a way to catch up to what other communities offer, and she feels this is not just a YMCA project but a community project.
So far, more than $12.5 million has been raised for this first phase of the project toward a goal of $13.5 million. Actual project costs are projected to be $14.2 million. At the groundbreaking ceremony, multiple matching grants will be announced, and stars will be available to purchase on the Wall of Stars in honor or memory of a loved one.
Filer said there is not a specific time for Phase 2 to begin, though it will start soon after Phase 1 is complete. Phase 2 will not only add the eight-lane indoor pool but more renovations at the Bill Bartley Branch, as well as other YMCA branches.
The Wichita Falls YMCA has served the community since 1944.
"We truly regret any inconvenience to our valued members as we work to bring state-of-the-art new facilities to the Y," Filer said. "These new facilities are community treasures that will positively impact quality of life for people of all ages for decades to come."
Follow Times Record News senior editor/reporter Lana Sweeten-Shults on Twitter @LanaSweetenShul.
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