Wellington is moving forward with plans to build a new aquatics complex with more features at a new location, replacing the aging facility next to the Wellington Community Center.
Within the next few years, Wellington will have a new competition pool, recreational water area and more at an aquatics facility at Village Park, in a space now used for storage that is on the southwest corner of the park property along 120th Avenue South. Consultants estimate the project will cost $22.6 million.
The Village Council voted 4-0 Tuesday night to approve amending an existing contract with Ohlson Lavoie Corp. to add architectural and engineering services, where the original scope of the contract included site analysis, site selection and master planning. As part of the vote, the council had to come to an agreement about which of the sites presented by the consultant would be best-suited for the project to move forward. The additional contract cost is $1.8 million.
Mayor Anne Gerwig recused herself from the discussion and vote Tuesday night because her husband’s engineering firm, of which she owns a share, has done business with Engenuity Group, a subcontractor on the project.
The council held a workshop Monday where consultants reviewed potential locations for the new aquatics center. The council had asked Ohlson Lavoie to consider three sites: Village Park, Town Center — where the complex is now — or possibly splitting aquatics features between a competition pool at Wellington Community High School and recreational facilities at Town Center.
Cost estimates ranged from $17.35 million to build the project on its current footprint; $22.95 million to build the project at Town Center along the waterfront where the Lake Wellington Professional Centre is now; $21.875 to squeeze the project onto a multi-purpose field and parking lot at Village Park along Pierson Road; and either $30.44 million or $23.3 million to split the project between Wellington High and Town Center.
The Village Park site off 120th Avenue South was the only site that met all the specifications for the project with room to spare, said Sam Elsheikh, senior principal with Ohlson Lavoie. “In general, it fits very well,” he told the council Monday, noting that the tentative layout would only take up about 50% to 60% of the available land.
The location also offers ample parking while keeping it close to other recreational facilities, he said.
Before the vote, Vice Mayor Michael Drahos placed a trophy on the dais in front of him. He earned the trophy 36 years ago while swimming in a competition at the same pool where the Aquatics Complex is now.
“Change sometimes is scary, but I think in this instance necessary,” he said. “I’m excited about the future.” He added that he hopes to one day see a vice mayor on the council who has a trophy with 2026 on it, instead of 1987.
Councilman John McGovern noted that when Drahos won his trophy, the pool was still part of Wellington Country Club East, which was open to Wellington residents and served as a sales center for new homes. That building eventually became the first Wellington Community Center. (Fun fact: My first-ever job interview was for Cold Stone Creamery, and it was at that old community center.)
The pool — in its same footprint as today — was built in the 1980s and has been renovated twice since, in the late 1990s and in 2010. Village staff has told council the pool has reached the end of its life and is due for another major update that could potentially cost millions of dollars.
It’s unclear what will be done with the current Aquatics Complex once the new one is completed. The village is looking at options to redevelop that part of the site and the Lake Wellington Professional Centre next door, staff has said.
Plans for the new aquatics center at Village Park as presented in a tentative layout to the council on Monday include a competition pool, a diving well, a multi-purpose pool and a zero-entry pool with a play structure and splash pad. The proposed layout could include a ticketing area, covered patio, lockers, dry play area, picnic area, barbecue grill, climbing wall, basketball hoops and cabana rentals.
“This is going to be an amazing facility,” Councilwoman Tanya Siskind said.
Throughout the process, council members have debated whether Village Park would be too far from the village center and the current Aquatics Complex. However, the consensus Tuesday night was that Village Park and its wealth of other recreational and competition facilities is the perfect spot.
“That’s why this belongs at Village Park,” Councilman Michael Napoleone said. “It’s the heart of our parks and recreation program.”
The site makes sense, Drahos said. “I think this is a great step forward for the future of athletics in Wellington,” he said.
Drahos paused before adding, “By the way, I want to thank my parents for holding on that trophy for 30-something years.”
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