News and Tribune

May 15, 2013

New Albany council to vote on aquatic center plans Thursday

Splash park added to park plan at Hoosier Panel site

By DANIEL SUDDEATH
daniel.suddeath@newsandtribune.com

NEW ALBANY —

The money has already been approved, but the New Albany City Council will hold another vote on the administration’s proposed quality-of-life projects tonight. 

The council will vote on a resolution to approve the final design of an outdoor aquatic center, a multi-use sports complex and a refurbishment of Binford Park for soccer and football fields. 

David Duggins, director of redevelopment and economic development for the city, said the original plans for the projects were tweaked following public input sessions and meetings with council members. 

The aquatic center — which will be built at the former Camille Wright pool site off Daisy Lane — is now designed to include three lanes for lap swimming and more green space in place of a concrete deck. 

“One of the best suggestions we got from the public sessions was the green space,” said Shane Gibson, an attorney with the city. 

A building that will house a game room has been added to the design, as Duggins said it will be available for rent and should boost revenue for the aquatic center. 

The aquatic center — which is slated to open in 2015 — should fall within the budgeted amount, he continued.

“Nine million was budgeted, and we’re hoping to be closer to the $7.5 million to $8.5 million range,” Duggins said. 

Beyond the debate over whether a bond should have been approved to fund the projects, there have been other concerns raised by officials and members of the community about the projects. 

New Albany resident Sam Schad submitted a letter to Mayor Jeff Gahan and local media outlets protesting the aquatic center. 

It included a petition with 302 signatures from people Schad said desired a more “robust” facility that would provide full-year access to a 50-meter pool. 

“Given the design resources at our disposal, it seems senseless that no one is asking one simple question: How can we build a facility that could be used by the broadest spectrum of our community all year long,” Schad wrote in the letter. 

Many of the names on the petition were credited to locations outside of New Albany, and some were from outside of Floyd County. 

The projects are the sole effort of the city, and could cost up to $19.6 million when the bond is finalized next month. 

Duggins and Gibson said they listened to the issues raised by the public, and added the inclusion of lanes for competitive swimming were due in part to requests from residents. 

“We tried to accomplish what we could for that small interest without detracting from the other part of the park,” Gibson said. 

As for the other projects, the city is still finalizing the purchase of the former Hoosier Panel property in order to construct a multi-use sports facility there. 

The 30,000 square foot indoor facility will be comprised of field turf making it usable for a variety of sports including football, soccer and volleyball. 

“This will be the only one in the region,” Duggins said of the indoor turf design. 

At the suggestion of a council member, the Silver Street site will also include a splash park, and a skate park is still be considered for the location. 

The Binford Park project will primarily consist of irrigation work to improve drainage as well as leveling off some of the land for soccer and youth football fields. 

The project is also to include a rehabilitation of the shelter house complete with new bathrooms, concession stands and storage room. 

A walking path will also be added, the basketball court resurfaced and lighting increased throughout the entire park. 

Gahan said the projects are redevelopment efforts that should boost revitalization in neighborhoods that could use the support. 

“I feel good about the work that has been done to modify and accommodate as many people as we can,” Gahan said. “Frankly, I think these projects are way past due, but I’m happy we’re moving forward.” 

The council meeting begins at 7:30 p.m., and will be held in the third-floor Assembly Room of the City-County Building. 

Duggins said construction should begin on all of the projects this year, with the aquatic center slated to open in 2015, and Binford Park and the multi-use facilities to be finished in 2014.