By John Kiesewetter
The Cincinnati Enquirer
WEST CHESTER TWP. - Adding an eight-lane, 25-yard competitive swimming pool to the proposed West Chester Community and Recreation Center made a big splash with swimming parents and coaches Wednesday.
"I think it's super. It's fantastic," said Dennis Beck, swim coach for Lakota West and East high schools.
"This looks like a great facility," said Sharon Jenkins, a township resident whose two children swim for the Flying Fish select team at Sycamore High School. "I just hope they're going to build it."
And that's still a big question after a series of meetings Wednesday revealing components of the $25-30 million Union Centre complex on West Chester Road, opposite Lakota West High School.
The two-story, 148,000 square-foot building would house a leisure pool, exercise areas, three-lane track, racquetball courts, sauna, senior citizens' rooms, video game room and a large "multipurpose field gym" for roller hockey, baseball practice or soccer.
In response to complaints at a community meeting last month, designers added a competitive swimming and diving pool with bleacher seating for 500.
However, the township needs about $100,000 in annual rental commitments from swim team practices and meets, says Jeff King of Ballard King Associates research company.
"I don't want to mislead anyone," says Steve Jones, Messer Construction project manager for the center. "We're still analyzing it. It's not a done deal."
Two Lakota varsity teams now pay about $6,000 a year to rent the Lakota YMCA pool for 13 hours a week. Before the pool was enclosed last year, Beck bused his team to Norwood every day for practice.
"Pool time in this area is hard to come by," said Jerry Summers, a township resident whose daughter swims for Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy and the Marlins.
Trustees have said they will not build the center if it cannot be financially self-sustaining. Mason's new $21-million recreation center, with a 25-yard competitive swimming pool, just completed its first year with a $585,000 deficit.
"We don't want the operation of the center to be a burden to the residents," said Trustee George Lang.
Designers promised Lang an estimated operating budget for the center in a week. He will share it with Summers and other parents.
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