Middletown city manager says YMCA aquatic center plan ‘most cost effective’

YMCA wants city to build park at its location near Atrium Medical Center.

If the city of Middletown wants to offer its residents an aquatic center, it has at least two options.

City Council has heard two presentations recently, one from a grassroots organization that says it can raise the estimated $4.2 million to build SplashDown Middletown Water Park, and from representatives from the Atrium Family YMCA who are interested in partnering with the city to build an aquatic park at the YMCA.

In the YMCA plan that was presented by YMCA’s Tyler Roberts before Tuesday’s City Council meeting, the city would pay for building the aquatic center, estimated at $2.3 million to $3.7 million, and the YMCA would cover the operating costs, estimated at $200,000 to $350,000 a year.

Roberts said a water tower with three slides would be the “iconic piece” to the aquatic center because the days of a rectangle pool are “behind us.”

When asked by Mayor Nicole Condrey if the city had any thoughts, City Manager Paul Lolli said the YMCA option was “the most cost effective way in the long run” because the city getting into the “business of operating a pool just doesn’t work.”

Council member Tal Moon said he was “intrigued by something like this.”

But Condrey said the return on investment isn’t there, and she’d rather the city spread the money across all of its parks instead of a water park that would operate four months a year.

Roberts said the Atrium YMCA is an ideal location for the aquatic center because it already has the infrastructure, locker rooms, a parking lot and an experienced staff. He said a partnership with the YMCA and the city makes “the most sense.”

“We need each other for a project like this to be successful,” he said.

Council members had several concerns about the aquatic center, including the cost to residents and how to transport them to the East End.

Roberts said those who use the center wouldn’t be required to be YMCA members and the cost of day passes would be based on the their household income. He said the sale of daily water passes and the expected increase in the number of YMCA memberships would help offset the cost of operating the facility.

Lolli said the city could look into providing bus transportation to the YMCA.

Moon asked if the YMCA considered building an aquatic center at its downtown location. Roberts said that was explored, but there wasn’t enough acreage or parking spaces.

Roberts said if the city agrees to build an aquatic center by early next year, it could be open late in the 2024 swimming season or early in 2025.

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