WATERLOO — A proposal to replace the city’s two failing swimming pools could top $11 million and require a public referendum.
Dave Schwartz, of Waters Edge Aquatic Design, presented Waterloo City Council members Monday with a conceptual design to build a new multi-featured pool and aquatic center at Byrnes Park and replace the Gates Park pool with a large spray park.
“Two large, full-featured pools for your community are not financially viable,” Schwartz said.
The city hired the Lenexa, Kan.-based consultant last year to prepare ideas to replace the two municipal pools that have outlived their useful lives. The current aluminum pools built in 1981 were expected to last 25 years and are now badly corroded.
“Repairing them is not an option,” he said.
Schwartz, who also designed The Falls aquatic center in Cedar Falls, estimated it would cost $9 million to remove the Byrnes pool and replace it with a six-lane lap pool with a diving board and small slides; a 400-foot lazy river with three large slides; new bath houses; and many other features for children.
It is estimated to cost $2.2 million to remove the Gates Pool and replace it with the spray park, which would have numerous water features. The development would also have a bath house, walking trails, playground and potential sledding area down the hill from the current pool to the golf course below.
The decision to place the pool in Byrnes Park was driven largely by attendance, Schwartz said. Just 8,000 people attended Gates last year compared to 24,000 at Byrnes.
Councilwoman Sharon Juon said she liked the initial plans but wanted to hear from those who live near the Gates pool before any decision is made to replace it with a spray park.
Councilwoman Margaret Klein said she was concerned about the city spending that much on the pool at Byrnes Park when the privately owned Lost Island Water Park was an option in the city.
City officials noted Lost Island was geared more for teenagers than the young families the municipal pools attract. Waterloo’s pools are much less expensive to visit and also serve as sites for programming, including swimming lessons.
“This isn’t something that is intended to compete with Lost Island,” Schwartz said. “It is meant to serve your community, but if other folks want to come here that’s great.”
Schwartz, Leisure Services Director Paul Huting and Chief Financial Officer Michelle Weidner all noted it’s likely any effort to replace the pools will require a bond issue and public referendum.
Huting said he thought the city could raise about half the costs from grants and donations. But that still leaves $6 million for the city to pick up. Iowa law does not allow the city to issue more than $700,000 in bonds for a “general corporate purpose” without a public vote.
“If it’s no then we downsize, start over or punt, I guess,” Huting said of a referendum.
Huting said he expects the Leisure Services Commission will schedule public meetings to gather input on the Waters Edge proposal before council members are asked to weigh in with a decision.