McCrabb: Group believes water park should be built in the city

Board members from SplashDown Middletown Water Park address City Council.

One by one, they stepped to the podium, and for four minutes, pleaded their case before Middletown City Council members.

They spoke with different voices, but their sentiment was the same: Middletown needs a water park.

Six board members of the SplashDown Middletown Water Park spoke last week during the citizens comment portion of the council meeting. Merrell Wood, executive director of SplashDown, addressed the council along with Adriane Scherrer, Jim Stiver, Marcia Andrews, Paul Gomia and Dora Bronston.

Scherrer, speaking to the Journal-News after the meeting, said Middletown’s aquatic center comes with an estimated $4.2 million price tag that she believes can be raised if the board gets the approval from the city.

The water park board would like the city to pay for a feasibility study, and if it receives a positive response, as the board believes, fundraising can begin.

She called the meeting before council “a do or die night” for the future of the water park because it must be supported by the city.

Wood, in a letter to council members, said board members have talked to or met with eight city and recreation officials from around the state whose economic and community demographics are similar to Middletown and who have built water parks.

He said most of the water parks generated enough revenue to cover their expenses every year except during 2020 because of COVID-19.

Even more important than money, board members said, a water park would improve the quality of life for Middletown residents and those from surrounding communities; provide a safe activity for children during the summer; give residents an opportunity to take swimming lessons; and attract more families and businesses to the area.

Stiver urged the city to “step up and build” a water park. He believes residents from Madison Twp., Monroe, Trenton and Franklin would patronize the park.

“We need a water park,” he said. “Period. End of story.”

Andrews, a former Middletown school board president, said swimming is the fourth most popular physical activity behind walking, running and biking. While 80% of adults say they can swim safely, it’s closer to 56%, she said.

A water park would be the perfect place for swimming lessons, and during the summer, “sneak in” some educational opportunities, she said.

Bronston said a water park would provide “a brighter future for everyone.”

Several years ago, Scherrer talked to city leaders about bringing concerts to downtown Middletown. She was told there wasn’t enough business downtown to support a concert series. But for years the Broad Street Bash was successful.

After that initial meeting, Scherrer stopped in the doorway, looked back and said: “You haven’t heard the last of me.”

You get the feeling she may be repeating that threat to anyone who will listen.

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