As Memorial Day weekend approaches, so does the 65th year of operation for Worthington Pools.

The facility's owners and operators at Swiminc Inc. might be working behind the scenes to preserve the facility's future, but on the pool level, all is going swimmingly, they said.

Manager Racheal Smith and her team began filling the outdoor pools the week of May 6.

She said the goal this year will be to keep members more engaged – rather than simply providing a place to swim – and to bring new life to some of the facility's activities.

"We're going to change things up a little bit," she said.

Meanwhile, Swiminc board president Rob Schmidt said he has been planning the next steps for the organization, which has been trying to start a major renovation project for years.

He said plenty of work is going on in the background but he is excited to start what he expects to be a "great" year for the privately owned and operated nonprofit facility, which includes three outdoor pools and an indoor pool on the grounds of Thomas Worthington High School.

"It's shaping up to be another good year at the pool," he said. "We've got some new ideas and some new programming, and I think people will continue to see that not only do we have this effort underway to take this next step ... but I think we're doing what we can to make each year better than the last one for our members."

As ThisWeek previously reported, the facility is nearing the end of its lifespan but funding has been hard to come by for a $4.6 million renovation project Swiminc leaders say is critical to the facility's operations.

The renovation project would include an all-seasons roof over the north pool, which would allow one end to be open for the summer season but still be used during colder weather. Deteriorating pool structures and facilities like bathrooms and snack bars would be renovated, and other amenities would be added along the way.

Schmidt said Swiminc has hired a consultant for a facility assessment that will "give us an idea of the short-, medium- and long-term capabilities of our facility and what we need to do."

Next, he said, Swiminc is planning a request for proposals to hire someone to assist design of the renovations to ensure that the plan "lines up with the facility's needs."

"We're moving forward," he said. "At this point it's just the 'get-our-house-in-order' phase – reorganize, get the plans, assess the facilities, give the members info about what we're doing and what we need – and then going from there."

The sticking point remains the project's expected $4.6 million cost, which exceeds Swiminc's budget.

Thanks largely to the help of state Rep. Mike Duffey (R-Worthington), Swiminc has secured $1 million in state funding.

The organization has floated the idea of asking for $1 million contributions from both Worthington Schools and the city of Worthington, but it has not made any formal requests and conversations have not become official.

Schmidt said he doesn't want to rush the process of raising money and instead would work this year to talk with members about what they want to ensure that the proposed renovations will be as successful as possible.

"We're going to be asking for money; there's no question about that," he said. "But that ask for money has to be done in the context of a plan that people understand and want to contribute to."

Smith said further engagement with members is good news because she believes they the key to the future of the facility.

"This is their pool, and we need their help," she said.

The outdoor pools at Worthington Pools are the only ones in the city limits; the facility is somewhat of a rarity because it is not operated by the school district or municipality. Worthington Schools' swimming and water-polo teams also compete there.

However, until Schmidt and the board can be certain about what they'll be asking for, he said, he wants to focus on the process.

"The board has a vision for the future and it's built around a business plan that makes us sustainable in the long term," he said. "But within that business plan, there's a lot of room for us to increase the input and participation of our membership. That's the point we're at now."

Worthington Pools' outdoor facilities, 400 W. Dublin-Granville Road, open for the season at 10 a.m. May 25 for members only. Public access begins May 26.

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