After a weekend of activities, the Highlands Pool will close Aug. 2 as the city breaks ground on the $7.6-million reconstruction of the 38-year-old aquatic center.

After a weekend of activities, the Highlands Pool will close Aug. 2 as the city breaks ground on the $7.6-million reconstruction of the 38-year-old aquatic center.

Between the closing of the pool this summer and the Memorial Day opening of the 2011 pool season, the city will revamp the aquatic center, replacing the existing facilities with a tot pool, leisure pool, a slide-and-spray playground, a large leisure pool, a spray playground, an eight-lane, 25-meter pool with a diving well, a lazy river and patio space.

The aquatic center's existing buildings will be replaced with energy-efficient, environmentally friendly buildings.

Also at the park, the city will enhance an existing wetlands, create a north parking lot with landscaping, create a Spring Road entrance, add a soccer field, resurface the southern parking lot, modify the eastern parking lot and create a new driveway with a roundabout and parking spaces at the front of the park, where the city plans to place a single entrance.

Earlier this year, Westerville officials had discussed splitting the improvements into three phases when cost estimates came in at a higher-than-expected $10.3-million, but low bids allowed the city to undertake the first two phases of the project immediately.

"That was one of the great things about bidding at this time. We were able to get a great value," parks and recreation development administrator Michael Hooper said. "The prices came in so good, city council allocated money for phase I and phase II."

Combining the projects allowed Westerville to save an estimated $750,000, Hooper said.

The third phase of the improvements, which include reconfiguring the ballfields, adding sports courts, expanding the path system, enhancing the wetlands further and creating a nature play area, has been put on hold indefinitely because the recreation and parks department does not have the needed $1.9-million available for those projects in its budget.

"We don't see that coming within the near future," Hooper said.

Westerville is in the process, however, of applying for funds through the Environmental Protection Agency that would allow for more of the improvements to the park's wetlands to be undertaken.

The city likely will know if money has been secured for that project by the end of this year, Hooper said.

The Highlands improvements will be completed by Thomas & Marker Construction.

Miles-McClellan Construction, another bidder on the project, had filed suit against the city, claiming that Thomas & Marker failed to file forms through the bidding process that gave the company financial advantage in securing the project.

However, Franklin County Common Pleas Judge David Cain ruled July 19 that Thomas & Marker fairly secured the project, allowing construction to begin on Aug. 2 as planned.

While the pool is closed for the remainder of the summer swim season, Highlands Pool pass-holders will be admitted to the Westerville Community Center's pool.