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Copyright 2018 Sarasota Herald-Tribune Co.
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Sarasota Herald Tribune (Florida)


NORTH PORT — The North Port City Commission will be asked on Tuesday to officially start the clock on the time when the proposed Aquatic Center at Butler Park will finally open.

Commissioners will vote on whether to award a $9.85 million construction contract to the low bidder, Recreational Design & Construction Inc. of Fort Lauderdale.

Once ground is finally broken, construction on the long-awaited recreational facility is expected to take up to two years.

The facility would include both a 25-yard stretch competition swimming pool that would be suitable for most high school and college swim meets, a multi-generational, lazy river leisure pool, open and closed flume body slides and possibly a bowl slide with a plunge pool.

It is envisioned as a scaled-down version of the of the Rogers Aquatic Center — the "Wet Willy," a three-acre water park in Rogers, Arkansas.

It would be adjacent to the Morgan Family Community Center at 6207 W. Price Blvd.

While the lap pool would be open year-round, the water park would be open daily from Memorial Day to Labor Day and weekends from April to Memorial Day and after Labor Day through to the end of October.

Money to build the complex — the cost came in significantly lower than an anticipated $12 million — will be mostly covered by one-cent sales tax revenue, along with park impact fees.

The city hopes to recover at least half the operating cost of the complex by selling memberships to the facility.

At an April 16 special meeting, the commission set daily user fees for the general public at $10 plus tax for adults and $8 plus tax for children, seniors and veterans, with babies up to 23 months free.

North Port residents would pay $8 plus tax for adults and $6 plus tax for children, seniors and veterans, with babies up to 23 months free.

Those rates were based on an anticipated attendance of more than 87,000 people annually.

Early consultant reports envisioned that the city would have to spend about $600,000 annually on top of those fees to maintain the pool.

Commissioners noted that figure has shifted. Estimates have since shrunk to $472,000 and, more recently, to $99,000.

The aquatic complex would ultimately replace the public pool in the city of North Port, a 25-yard pool that was built in 1954 and is currently operated by the SKY Family YMCA.

The city almost closed that pool in October 2016, after an aging circulation system failed because of a broken pipe.

Commissioners are also considering how to best use the 10-building government-owned complex next to Dallas White Park, where the current pool is located.

The Sky Family YMCA unveiled a proposal June 7 for the city to replace an undersized and inadequate building currently used as a child care center with a more modern facility that could accommodate 120 children from infant to age 5 that would be operated as one of its Sunshine Education Academies.

At that same meeting, representatives of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota County, which currently operates the Gene Matthews Boys & Girls Club on Biscayne Drive, told city commissioners that they need more space, too.

The commission meets at 1 p.m. Tuesday in chambers at City Hall, 4970 City Hall Blvd.

It is the seventh item scheduled to come up on the general business portion of the agenda.

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June 12, 2018


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