Cornman sees benefits of Aquatics Center

An artist rendering of the proposed Aquatics Center.  (Photo by Jimmy Galvan) 

Cornman sees benefits of Aquatics Center

 

For Bay City Councilman Bill Cornman, he has always been a supporter of the Wellness Matagorda group’s plans for an Aquatics Center in Bay City.

But coming home Jan. 2 from a workout, he saw the needs for the indoor pool facility right in front of his eyes.

On Wednesday, Jan. 2, Cornman was returning home on a nasty day where the temperature was 49 degrees and raining. But as he passed the outdoor pool on 16th Street, he was amazed at what he saw at the outdoor facility.

“There I witnessed round about 20 young athlete swimmers pulling off the heavy pool covers, engaging in a rigorous work out, replacing the covers, and then sprinting for the warmth of the locker rooms,” Cornman said.   

Bay City Head Swim Coach Bob Button was conducting the workout.

“The thought of “discipline,” “commitment” and “dedication” came to my mind — a teaching experience and growth for the youth of our community,” Cornman said. “Not only are these kids learning a physical skill they will hold for a lifetime, but also the mental toughness that will stick with them through the next phases of their lives.  They could be lying in bed under the covers with their noses stuck in their cell phones or watching TV   — but not these kids and their coach.”

Cornman along with his fellow city and county officials have pledged their support behind the initiative to bring an Aquatics Center to Bay City. 

 “We have been exploring this for 18 months and this would be the third phase of the Wellness Matagorda initiative,” said Matagorda County Judge Nate McDonald. 

The city of Bay City has agreed to accept the responsibility of leading the countywide aquatic center (natatorium) project. A part of the Wellness Matagorda initiative is to get its residents to a better health status.

A walking track was built first and then came to the dome that houses physical rehab services. The third and final phase would be the aquatic center that would offer aqua therapy, competitive swim lanes as well as a recreational area that can be used year-round.

Loy Sneary of Wellness Matagorda County presented the project idea to city and county leaders during recent meetings.

“We just need to find out what the next steps are and then prioritize them,” McDonald said. 

The county has already passed a resolution in support of the project and McDonald firmly stands behind the project.

“This would be another great project that we need,” McDonald said. “An aquatics center, with the water park, would provide more seasonal jobs for our young ones as lifeguard and maintenance jobs. At the end of the day, I sure hope Matagorda County can pull together around this project.”

The center is estimated to cost $17 million to complete and a $1.4 million payment due on the pool yearly for debt service. Sneary pointed out the $17 million price tag is a worst-case scenario in case additional parking is needed for the project.

He also added that the $1.4 million would be if no other money is raised for the project yearly and he believes those funds are available to offset that cost as well. Sneary said there are Texas Parks and Wildlife grants available for both indoor and outdoor swimming projects.

The aquatic center will feature an Olympic size pool, a recreational pool and a small water park that will raise funds to help offset the cost of the project. The small water park will feature slides and a lazy river circling the water park.

“We believe the profits made from the water park will help offset the yearly pool costs,” Sneary said.

The plan would be then to take the city’s recreational pool sites and renovate them into splash pad sites instead of pools. 

Bay City Mayor Mark Bricker believes the project is a “golden opportunity” for the city.

“This project has a lot of potential,” Bricker said. “We still need to gather more information and we prefer the lead role in this project. Our two pools are in bad shape and this is a golden opportunity that is there for the city.”

Cornman agreed that the 16th Street pool has served the city well in its 50 plus years providing recreational, competitive and therapeutic swimming for all ages. 

“Overall, it’s the most utilized athletic and recreational facility in the city,” Cornman said. “Our competitive summer league swim team is as good as any in the state, if not the very best, and many of our high school swimmers have gone on to the collegiate level, including prestige programs such as Stanford and the University of Texas. Countless of our youngsters have gained the life long skill of swimming through swim lessons, participation in our wonderful summer league, and just playing in the water in a safe environment.”

Cornman pointed out that the 16th Street pool is the only heated pool in all of Matagorda County, a growing county with five school systems. 

“Due to its age though, we find significant capital improvements are needed to provide its viability and extend its life,” Cornman said. “However, instead of pouring money into an aging facility, Wellness Matagorda, in conjunction with the city of Bay City, is attempting a project to construct an indoor Aquatic Center with an outdoor mini-water park envisioned to be located in the vicinity of the high school — hospital campuses. 

“As one might imagine, the cost commitment for such a undertaking is significant, so the question becomes “can we manage the cost”?” Cornman said. “The answer is yes we can, as long as the organizations, businesses, and individuals of our community come together in support.  El Campo, of Wharton County, managed to build an aquatic center only by way of strong community support; therefore, I reason, “so can we in Matagorda County.”

Cornman said the benefits of the center will help the entire county. 

“The benefit to our entire community and our youngsters, however is more than worth the commitment and will produce a facility that will provide indoor year round recreational swimming, swim lessons and competitive swimming physical therapy,” Cornman said. “Better health, improved family life, and a sense of community pride will come as a result.

Bottom line, if our kids are willing to swim outdoors in the cold and wet of winter, I, for one, don’t mind working to make our swim programs better, more robust, and all inclusive,” Cornman said. “Together let’s build an Aquatic Center in Bay City for all of Matagorda County.”

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