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Olympic Swim Club

No hope for city pool here; apartments' design goes public

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USED BY PERMISSION OF OLYMPIC BEACH ACQUISITIONS LLC
Designs for the Olympic apartment complex were released last week at livetheolympic.com.

Don't hold your breath waiting to take a plunge in a new municipal swimming facility in Clintonville.

The city of Columbus won't be getting into the pool-building business any time soon, Director of Recreation and Parks Alan D. McKnight said at last week's Clintonville Area Commission meeting.

"Currently, we don't have any plans to build any new swimming facilities in the city," he told commission members and a room packed with residents.

McKnight was invited to appear at the commission's August session in light of the impending closure of Olympic Swim Club at the end of the summer.

The property at 3450 Indianola Ave. is proposed for mixed-use redevelopment. An application was filed with the city last week for a 152-unit apartment building dubbed the Olympic that would include restaurant and retail space on the 2.34-acre parcel.

A website offering more details about the proposed four-story structure went live last week. Its existence was announced by Gene Pierce, president of the Pierce Communications public relations firm, on behalf of the property's owners.

The site describes the proposed $23-million investment as the start of a "transformation of the entire Indianola corridor" north of North Broadway.

"The Olympic pool is where I grew up, where I met my best friend, and where I had my first job," pool co-owner April Zimmerman Katz writes at livetheolympic.com. "It was a vital and consistent touchpoint for us that has been cherished by generations of our children, siblings, cousins, parents, grandparents and my great-grandparents.

"It is imperative for me that what we build on this site both respects this past and delivers a new point of pride for my family and the Clintonville community. We've worked hard to achieve these goals and hope you agree that the Olympic, like the pool, will be something very special.

"Our hope is for at least another 80 years of partnership and benefit to the entire community."

During his appearance before the CAC, McKnight outlined the city's aquatics program, which currently includes seven outdoor pools, one indoor pool that's closed during the summer and three "spraygrounds," or outdoor water-themed playgrounds.

The closest city-owned outdoor pool to Clintonville is the one at Tuttle Park, McKnight said.

"All of our pools are very old at this point," he added, noting that the newest dates to 1977.

While admitting some sectors of the city are underserved in terms of access to pools, McKnight said the problem is that not only are they expensive to build, but they're even more costly to operate. Each of the existing outdoor ones is open 10 or 11 weeks a year and costs $100,000 to $125,000 to operate, with most of that going to salaries, maintenance and chemicals, he said.

"It's an expensive operation," he said.

Even if things should change and a decision is made to add to the number of municipal pools, there's no guarantee one would be built in Clintonville, McKnight said.

City officials were approached 15 to 20 years ago by members of the family that owns Olympic Swim Club about the possibility of the property being acquired by the city. McKnight, who was not director at the time, said he participated in assessing the proposal, and it was decided it would cost too much to bring the Olympic site up to standards required for a municipal pool.

City officials were not approached about acquiring Olympic Swim Club this time around, McKnight said.

"It's private property," he said. "The owners are not selling. Even if I had the money, we can't swoop in and buy it."

The director said he often is asked about adding a pool at Whetstone Park, but there simply isn't room for one. The only possible location would require removal of some baseball diamonds.

"I'm not disputing the value of pools," McKnight said.

During a question-and-answer period, he estimated a new outdoor pool would cost around $4.5 million to build. That figure would increase to perhaps $10 million for an indoor facility.

A woman in the audience suggested McKnight's financial calculations about the cost of building and maintaining a pool needed to be weighed against the cost to society of childhood obesity and juvenile delinquency resulting from children not having access to such recreational opportunities.

"I can only work with the money I've got," he responded.

Another woman suggested Clintonville is not getting back a fair share of the taxes residents pay to the city, and that these are subsidizing pools in other, poorer parts of Columbus.

"I understand Olympic's closing and it's emotional -- I swam in that pool myself -- but we can't just jump in and say we're going to solve it this year," McKnight said. "I can't tell you how to solve the problem.

"We're not ignoring Clintonville by any means."

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