Group to discuss new outdoor pool
WORTHINGTON -- Several projects have been accomplished in Worthington thanks to the grassroots efforts of local residents -- the restoration of Memorial Auditorium and the Dayton House among them. Now, local resident and business owner Mike Smith is hoping to kick-start another grassroots effort, this time to bring an additional outdoor pool to Worthington.
Smith created a community page on the online social network, Facebook, titled "New Outdoor Pool for the City of Worthington." As of noon Tuesday, the site had more than 315 likes --enough, Smith said, to warrant the next step.
He is organizing a meeting for 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Centennial Park shelter for people to come and discuss ideas.
"There was just a lot of talk between parents ... and our kids, just saying how they missed the outdoor pool," Smith said. "We miss being able to go there with them."
Smith kept hearing people say that something should be done, or someone should talk to the city about an outdoor pool, and Thursday's meeting is the first step in that process.
He said there has been no move to talk with anyone at the city at this point -- it's too early. He wants first to gauge interest in an outdoor pool, find out what types of amenities they would like to have in a facility and of course, get an idea for the costs.
The effort to get an outdoor pool, Smith cautioned, is in no way meant to take away from the YMCA/City of Worthington Aquatics Center, which includes both an indoor and outdoor pool.
"I just can't stress enough how much of an asset the new YMCA is -- that Andy Johnson and them have done everything they've done," Smith said. "We don't see this as one taking away from the other. The YMCA is a great new asset for the community, and a new outdoor pool would enhance that."
Smith said he understands the YMCA did what it could with the resources it had, but at the same time, he said there was a "misconception in the public" about the size of the outdoor pool.
"That's why not a lot was said back then," he explained. "Now, this is just too small for a town of 13,000 people."
Smith said he's talked to parents who are taking their children to neighboring communities like Adrian, Lakefield and Sibley, Iowa, to enjoy the outdoor pool environment.
"It just doesn't make sense to a lot of us parents," he added. "We just feel like a town this size needs that for its kids."
At Thursday's meeting, Smith hopes to get a sense for what people want to accomplish.
"I think we need to know what we want before we go ask for it," he said. "We'd like a lot of input from families and figure out what everybody wants and put a proposal together.
"We want a large pool, a zero-entry type pool, a slide, and a lot of kids want the diving boards back. Other water features are yet to be discussed."
Smith said he also wants to find out what the community is willing to do to help get an outdoor pool built, instead of just "asking the city to pay for it all."
As for a location if the grassroots effort moves forward, Smith said the site of the former outdoor pool is ideal.
"We like its location, it has a parking lot already and it's close to the lake," he said.
Mike Woll, Worthington Alderman and city representative on the local Parks Board, said different ideas have been discussed for the former outdoor pool site, but everything is expensive. Since the old pool was demolished, the land has been seeded to grass.
Having heard little talk about the grassroots efforts for an outdoor pool, Woll said any talk of a location is really premature. He has heard nothing about the size of the project, and more importantly, who pays for it. He said the last years the old outdoor pool was open, it was losing $150,000 a season.
Woll said there was a strong grassroots effort involved in the constructing the first outdoor pool.
"I think it's a healthy way to go about the discussion," he added. "Let the grassroots figure out what they'd like and what they want to see."
As for other communities drawing Worthington residents to their pools, Woll wasn't concerned, saying his family has enjoyed outdoor pools in other area towns as well.
"People come from those communities and swim at the indoor pool because its 60 degrees and raining outside," he said. "Maybe the benefit is having these options in other communities."
Smith is willing to take the first step to get people to gather together for an open discussion about an outdoor pool, and he is hoping people will be interested enough in attending. He will also continue to keep people informed through the Facebook page.
Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.