Wellington officials consider building new aquatics center in new location

[Village of Wellington]

Could Wellington get a new aquatics facility, in a new location?

The Village Council weighed some of the options this week in a workshop, discussing possible locations and configurations to help provide direction to a consultant hired earlier this year.

The meeting held Monday before the council’s agenda review workshop was an extension of the annual Directions Workshop, held across two days in May.

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In a past presentation, another consultant evaluated the existing Aquatics Facility next to the Wellington Community Center, and reported to the council that within the next three to four years, “a substantial investment” would be required, Village Manager Jim Barnes said.

It’s important to note that no final decisions were made during the workshop. The discussion was held for the council to give guidance to the consultant, Ohlson Lavoie Corp.

Where could it be?

Council members considered seven possible sites in the village for a potential new aquatics complex:

– 10 acres of school district-owned land at 11925 Birkdale Dr., near the intersection with Royal Fern Drive.

– Wellington’s 10-acre park site next to the Mall at Wellington Green.

– The 66-acre K-Park property on the southwest corner of Stribling Way and S.R. 7.

– A 12-acre site in Village Park currently used for storage.

– A 19-acre piece of Greenbriar Park, next to the Wellington Dog Park.

– A roughly 5-acre piece of property at Wellington High School that currently is used for parking and water storage.

– About 7 acres at Wellington Town Center that that now includes the Aquatics Complex, picnic pavilion, playground, boat storage building and Lake Wellington Office Complex.

The council narrowed down the options to have the consultant come back with recommendations based on rebuilding the pool complex where it is now; moving it to Village Park; or building at least a competition pool at Wellington High School.

What could it include?

The council also directed the consultant to consider options for building both a competition pool and recreational and training facilities on the same site, or splitting them between two properties.

Wellington’s Aquatics Complex includes an Olympic-size competition pool; a building with offices, showers, bathrooms and lockers; a children’s sprayground; a smaller pool for children; and two water slides. The pool is used for competitions, lifeguard training and certification, pool parties, swim lessons and water aerobics.

Barnes said that based on a previous consultant’s work, rebuilding the pool where it is now next to the Wellington Community Center would take it out of commission for 15 to 18 months, possibly more.

Vice Mayor Michael Drahos said one benefit of building a new facility on a new site would be to continue use of the current pool while the new one is under construction.

Costs for the work range from a few million dollars to keep the facility where it is, to more than $10 million to rebuild in a new spot.

“It also doubled the duration of the pool as well,” Drahos said of building a new facility.

The council discussed whether the aquatics facility at its current site and in its current configuration fit with the surrounding use. Wellington in recent years has been working to make the area, known as Town Center, more of a gathering place for the community. With the addition of the Promenade along Lake Wellington and the work now underway to expand parking and the amphitheater green space, the pool seems a little out of place, some council members said.

The pool is in its current location because it was part of the acquisition when the village purchased the former Wellington East Country Club, which was Wellington’s first community center. That building since has been torn down, with the current two-story Community Center sitting close to its original location. The pool sat dormant for years before Wellington decided to make the investment, renovate it and turn it into the Aquatics Complex, Barnes said.

Mayor Anne Gerwig said she would like to see the pool stay where it is, but with a redesigned recreational area. “My problem with moving the pool is, I don’t think any of the other locations are ideal because I think when we talk about Town Center, we are talking about a place for the community to gather,” she said, adding that she feels gathering is a big part of competition sports.

Councilman Michael Napoleone disagreed. “I just think there’s no synergy with the pool and the rest of the site,” he said. “You don’t really go from the amphitheater to the pool. We’re trying to make this whole site integrate together so you can stay here and do multiple things. No one’s doing those things and then jumping in the competition pool.”

Councilwoman Tanya Siskind asked that the consultant consider potential costs of placing the competition pool and recreational pool at two separate sites, with the possibility of the competition pool at Wellington Community High School and the family-friendly pool in another spot.

Councilman John McGovern agreed. “If we were going to only give one location and say it has to be this one place, I would put it at Village Park,” he said. “But I think that because we’re Wellington, we have certainly the ability to have consultants bring us options to talk about what’s feasible if you divided the two pools and what it cost.”

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