Holcomb USD 363 staff members are researching the possibility of building a new, indoor pool on district grounds, which could serve as a public year-round swimming option for Finney County residents, athletes and, primarily, Holcomb students.
USD 363 Superintendent Scott Myers said Holcomb locals have for months asked him whether the district could reopen the decades-old pool locked away in Holcomb Elementary School. The pool was shut down roughly 10 years ago because of financial constraints and has since sat drained and unused.
Recently, the need for something similar has become more apparent, and possibly more possible, Myers said. He said the USD 363 Board of Education was open to discussing a reinstated pool, and recently USD 457 superintendent Steve Karlin called Myers about the Holcomb Elementary pool and the need for indoor options throughout Finney County.
Myers said he began speaking to Lona DuVall, Finney County Economic Corp. president and CEO, about an aquatic center at USD 363, either primarily for Holcomb or for the whole of Finney County.
“Why can’t the Finney County Aquatic Center be located in Holcomb? I don’t see any reason in the world why it can’t be,” Myers said.
The potential project aligns with another large push for new swimming facilities: the city of Garden City’s community input process for the design of a facility to replace the Big Pool. With ample new data cataloging what current residents want from local pools, USD 363’s timing is excellent, DuVall said.
“We always appreciate getting to work with folks and we are excited that the school district is being aggressive and pushing for something their people have been asking for,” DuVall said.
With the go-ahead from the USD 363 Board of Education, but a reluctance to fund the project through a bond issue, the next step is researching designs, costs and funding options, Myers said. He will approach the board with more information in the coming months. Ideally, he said, he would like to make significant progress with the project over the next two years.
Several years ago, a bond issue in Holcomb included the construction of a new, indoor pool, Myers said. The bond failed, but the plans for the pool can give the district a starting point for a rough, preliminary design.
Myers said the new facility would be indoors, with a pool that fits swim competition requirements. There would be no competition diving boards to avoid liability issues and four spectator stands would line the sides. The designs from the bond estimated the project to cost slightly more than $4 million and suggested locations to the west of the bus barn by Holcomb Elementary, or northwest or southwest of Holcomb High, Myers said. Ideally, the water would be heated with geothermal equipment.
Myers said he expected the pool would be open to the public at certain times, but its first purpose would be to serve students, primarily through swimming lessons during elementary school P.E. classes and swim team practices and, potentially, competitions.
“If every single kid comes through here truly knowing how to swim, that’s a potential lifesaver, if you think about it,” Myers said.
He said he would love to partner with other local entities, such as the Holcomb Recreation Commission and Holcomb City Council, and that he was not opposed to discussing partnerships with USD 457. There could also be a possibility for other districts to pay a fee to use the facility, he said.
Because the USD 363 Board of Education was not eager to move forward with a bond issue for the project, Myers said the district would pursue other options, such as fundraising or private backing, potentially from a financial institution that DuVall suggested. But nothing is set in stone, he said.
The district could also look into refurbishing the existing pool at Holcomb Elementary, Myers said, but he said the option was unlikely. After years of no use, he expects issues with the inner piping. The current pool also does not fit competition requirements and has little to no space for spectator seating.
The space is essentially a hole in the ground, Myers said.
Over the next few days and weeks, Myers will meet with local “swim enthusiasts” and local private entities. He said he has already reached out to an architect for updated designs and cost estimates, which should be available in the next couple of weeks. DuVall said the FCEDC is helping the district identify potential partners.
Once the information is gathered, Myers will present it to the board, and the next steps will be up to them, he said.
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