Could Butler County’s latest aquatic center be coming to Middletown?

Ten years after Middletown left the swimming pool business, two people think it’s time to spend up to $5 million on an aquatic center in the city, an action taken in surrounding communities.

There hasn’t been a city pool in Middletown since Sunset Pool closed in 2009, one year after Douglass Pool, the other city pool, closed. They both closed after a cost analysis showed they would be too expensive to maintain with limited attendance.

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The city has replaced the pools with splash pads in Smith and Douglass parks.

Now Adriane Scherrer and Merrell Wood are spearheading a project to bring SplashDown Middletown Aquatic Center to the city. They said the center would be built on about 6.6 acres in an undetermined location and cost $4 million to $5 million. They believe the facility can be funded through federal and state grants, private donations and public assistance and be operational by June 2021.

“It can be done,” Wood said.

When Scherrer was part of the “What If?” campaign that asked residents what they wanted to see in the city, she said 33 percent mentioned a water facility.

They’re raising the $15,000 necessary for a feasibility study to be conducted by Brandstetter Carroll Inc. Wood said he’s “very confident” the money can be raised for the three-month study that will offer three proposed sites, receive community input during two public meetings and conclude whether the region can support another aquatic center.

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“Middletown is recovering,” said Wood, a former Park Board member and longtime resident. “This would be another reason to come to Middletown, another attraction to Middletown. It’s needed.”

Scherrer believes the 90-acre Smith Park, the city’s largest park, would be an ideal location because it’s near the bike path, sits on the city bus line and offers ample parking.

They understand for city leaders to approve such a pool plan, the facility must be “run like a business” and sustainable, Wood said. If the center is designed properly with lazy rivers, family slides, competitive and casual swimming lanes, family-friendly water depths, concession stands and conference rooms, Wood predicted it can be operated with 20-30 percent of its funding coming from the city.

Scherrer and Wood have worked quietly on the project for about two years and have met with city administrators from adjacent communities. They believe residents from those communities — places without public pools — would support an aquatic center in Middletown.

“Perfect location,” Wood said.

Middletown City Manager Doug Adkins said he looks forward to seeing whatever the private aquatics group has to share. He said next summer the city hopes to adopt its parks master plan with a feasibility study for a recreation/water center as part of the scope of work.

What Scherrer and Wood are proposing has become reality in Oxford. In 2006, Oxford considered building an aquatic center to replace its aging city pool that was built in 1974 and was becoming too expensive to maintain. But when the Great Recession hit in 2008, those plans were put on hold, said Casey Wooddell, the city’s parks and recreation director.

Then in 2016, the city decided to go forward with the plans.

The Aquatic Center, built in Oxford Community Park, opened this summer to rave reviews and has been a major attraction in the city, Wooddell said. He said more daily passes were sold than expected, and there appeared to be a large number of out-of-town visitors.

“It was overwhelming positive,” he said of the public’s reaction. “They would stand in awe.”

The Aquatic Center cost $4.5 million with a $25,000 grant from Butler Rural Electric Cooperative for the shelter in the pool area. A local family estate also donated funds for the yellow, twisting slide into the pool.

Miamisburg’s Sycamore Trails Aquatic Center includes a pool that can accommodate 1,000 swimmers and a sand volleyball courts with lights. The center built in the late 1990s at 400 South Heincke Road includes a 174-foot tube slide, a 133-foot body slide, a padded frog tot slide, an aquatic climbing wall and 115 parking spaces.

The pool also features a one-meter diving board and a 12.5-foot diving well, with the center offering an array of water spray toys, and a wet sand playground and lounge seating

Wood has talked to local Realtors who said when people are considering moving, they’re seeking high-paying jobs, quality schools and parks and recreation. So building an aquatic center should be “a high priority” and it could become “an important asset to the future of the city,” he said.

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