New $4.5M Butler County aquatic center already earning accolades

Summer saw the opening of the new Aquatic Center in Oxford after many years of planning, and the project is being recognized with a second-place award in an annual competition by the Ohio Parks and Recreation Association.

The award is among Capital Improvement Projects in the $2.5 million and up category. The final cost of the Oxford Aquatic Center was $4.5 million.

The first-place award in that category went to the Ohio State Parks and Watercraft for their Hocking Hills Visitor Center.

The OPRA announced its 2019 Annual Awards of Excellence winners in 14 various categories Nov. 12.

“We’re excited. We would like to have won first place but I’m happy to be recognized by the state,” Oxford Parks and Recreation Department Director Casey Wooddell said. “It’s an honor to be recognized, and we’re grateful to have such an amazing facility here in Oxford.”

The Aquatic Center, which was scheduled to open Memorial Day weekend, had a bit of a delay in finishing, due in part to the rainy spring weather, and opened a couple weeks later. It includes amenities for all ages, including various size slides, basketball hoops, diving boards, a lazy river, play structure and zero depth activity pool. It also includes a separate eight-lane competition pool.

Mayor Kate Rousmaniere expressed appreciation for the OPRA award and said the community has enjoyed having the new pool here.

“I think we deserve first place,” she said. “I was in line at the grocery store and a woman said that pool put us over the top, in regard to livability. It has brought people from out of town. I like to talk to people and I have met people at the pool from Hamilton and Indiana.”

Wooddell said the award is the result of a lengthy and detailed nomination he provided to OPRA which could include up to 12 documents or images.

The Aquatic Center was built by general contractor Wilcon Corp. out of Kettering, along with Patterson Pools out of Columbus.

“This project was a prime example of cooperation between contractors and city staff and working collectively as a whole to build the best possible aquatic center,” Wooddell stated. “The first summer was very successful, and we’re looking forward to next season.”

In spite of the delayed opening, the Aquatic Center drew more than 30,000 visits for the past summer, more than doubling the number using the old pool in 2018, the recreation director said.

Rousmaniere, who has served two terms on City Council and the past four years as mayor, has held that office during the opening of the municipal building in the old Lane Library site, the police department expanded into the entire former municipal building and then the aquatic center. She was not eligible to run for Council this month because of term limits.

She is excited to see all three projects completed but emphasizes they have all been discussed and planned for many years before she came on to Council.

“I’m thrilled. I can’t take the credit for the aquatic center because so many people have done so much. Prue Dana, Ken Bogard and (former recreation director) Gail Brahier deserve the credit,” Rousmaniere said. “The pool, the police department and city building are important to the town.”

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