Community members Tuesday pitched the idea of creating a new indoor pool in Manhattan.
Tracy Anderson, principal architect at Anderson Knight Architects, suggested Manhattan city commissioners pursue a feasibility study, which is an analysis that compiles information to see if a completed project could be successful.
“I am 30-plus-year triathlete, so swimming is a key part of what my favorite hobby is,” Anderson said. “And I cannot do that right now. I spent all of my time at the Natatorium swimming for those last 30-plus years.”
Kansas State University closed the swimming facility permanently in February because of ongoing maintenance and ventilation problems. It opened in 1973.
Anderson also said he believes in the quality of life in Manhattan as well as creating amenities to attract people to the community.
The city government has considered building a new indoor aquatic facility in the past.
In 2007, 68% of voters rejected a $39.2 million bond proposal that included a $31.7 million indoor aquatic and recreation facility at CiCo Park.
A survey issued to the community from Anderson’s company in 2015 showed 47% of Manhattan households identified a need for an indoor aquatic facility, Anderson told commissioners Tuesday.
Based on that desire, Bruce McMillan Architects, working on a Parks and Recreation feasibility study in 2016, recommended a separate indoor aquatic facility at CiCo Park at an estimated $9.6 million to $10.1 million.
At the time, parks board member Ed Klimek said proper planning could help the city take advantage of the window of opportunity at K-State.
“You have a university swimming complex that is going down,” he said. “K-State has an immediate need. We have an immediate need.”
Ultimately, the city went in a different direction with a quarter-percent sales tax initiative that voters passed in 2017 to generate $27.5 million to create indoor recreation facilities among other parks improvements.
This topic was not on Tuesday’s meeting agenda. During the first meeting of the month, people can comment on any city matters or concerns.
Manhattan residents John Balman and Chris Spooner, and Chad Bunger, assistant director of community development for the city government, also spoke in support of the feasibility study and indoor pool.
Bunger, Balman, Spooner and Anderson, among others, formed the Manhattan Aquatics Group toward reaching this goal.
“We’re a small group, but we’re getting traction and looking to expand,” Bunger said Wednesday morning.
Bunger said his two sons swim.
“It is a family bond with us,” Bunger told commissioners Tuesday. “It’s also a community attractor, I think, for Manhattan.”
The group is seeking to generate community support whether it’s funding or in-kind donations. Anderson said Tuesday that he was willing to provide the city with a study.
City manager Ron Fehr said he respected the group and its ideas.
“I appreciated their leadership to develop a team to update previous reports and information regarding indoor aquatics and be willing to step up with some significant in-kind contributions as we review their proposal,” Fehr told The Mercury on Wednesday.