By MATTHEW NASH
— I have well documented the fact that I believe we need a new swimming pool in New Albany. One of the original columns that I wrote back in August of 2009 explained why I thought building an outdoor water facility was important. I pointed out that one of the hurdles that had to be cleared was the city and county working together to build a new pool. Now that the parks department has been split into two entities, I think the time has come to get this done.
A few weeks ago New Albany Mayor Jeff Gahan requested funding grants from the Horseshoe Foundation of Floyd County to be used to build a new Little League complex and an outdoor aquatic center. A potential site has not been established, but a few places have been discussed including the former Camille Wright Pool site and Sam Pedan Community Park. The cost of building the aquatic center is estimated to be around $8 million.
This year will mark the sixth summer that we have been without a pool in New Albany. Some people believe that maybe we are moving a little too fast. I believe it has been far too long. Maybe there hasn’t been much of a call for a swimming facility from the general public, but I have always believed that “if you build it, they will come.”
When the Camille Wright Pool closed permanently before the 2008 season, attendance had fallen off significantly over the final few years. I don’t think this was due to lack of support for a public pool in New Albany, I believe that the facility’s design was obsolete at the time it was closed and a more family friendly aquatic center would have been more popular. A “zero depth entry” design has proven more popular over the last several years and easier on families with small children.
While people sit around and talk about the growing problem of childhood obesity, we have been limiting the availability to facilities for our youth to play outdoors. I am the parent of three children that still live at home ages 15, 13 and 11. Most of the time it is impossible to get my kids to put down the electronic devices and go outside and play. The one way that I can get them excited to play outside is by taking them swimming.
Last summer when the temperatures reached 100 degrees for days on end, it was also very dangerous to be outside without a way to keep cool. My kids and I enjoyed several days at either the Clarksville or Jeffersonville municipal swimming pools. It would be nice to have that same chance here in New Albany again.
There will always be people that are against spending any money on anything that would improve New Albany. I can make one call and have 20 people show up at a city council meeting to “protest.” They have been against every worthwhile project in our city, including the building of the downtown YMCA. Remember nearly every vote leading up to building the YMCA was a slim 5-4 margin. I don’t think these naysayers represent the average family in New Albany.
I am sure that some people would come out against the building of the swimming pool because there are other projects that they believe are more worthwhile or taxpayers are unwilling to pay for things that they will never use. Personally, I am tired of paying for murder trials and an obsolete jail, that is barely 20 years old.
I am nostalgic for a bygone era when I use to spend hot summer afternoons cooling myself at the local municipal swimming pool. I lived within walking distance of our local swimming pool “Oasis” which was later remodeled and named for New Albany’s Olympic swimming hero Camille Wright, who was also a neighbor of mine. I believe that a future Olympic swimmer could possibly live in New Albany if only they had a facility where their love of swimming could be cultivated.
According to the last census numbers the city of New Albany has nearly 5,800 children between the ages of 5 and 17. Over the last several years the activities that are available to our youth have dwindled. I believe that if a state of the art facility is proposed and a good site is picked then people will be proud to come there. Maybe in a few years we can see another Olympic swimmer emerge from New Albany.
— Matthew Nash can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org