December 17, 2017
Overcast, light rain
  • 44.6 °F
  • Overcast, light rain
Comment

Swimming Means Winning

Evansville residents have their choice of a few indoor swimming facilities, including two YMCA pools (one with two swim lanes) and the city-run Lloyd Pool. However, ask many of them about Lloyd Pool and you’re very likely to hear it ranks very low in their opinions. The indoor Olympic-size pool, located at 6101 N. First Ave., has served Evansville schools and residents for 40 years and is showing its age.

Built in 1975, the facility has undergone many patch-up jobs through the decades. To reach the pool, visitors walk through the locker rooms — open spaces with a few bathroom stalls and no designated changing area. The floors are concrete with occasional spots of standing water. Narrow benches offer places to sit down or perch bags. After passing by the shower stalls, a small, dark hallway leads to a ramp. At the top of this ramp, swimmers are greeted with 25-yard lanes divided by a small bulkhead. Even with the sun shining bright, Lloyd Pool is a bit dark. Only three large skylights and six rows of large, industrial lights along the ceiling illuminate the facility.

Touting 16 lanes, the 50-meter sized pool houses practices for six of Evansville’s high schools, the Greater Evansville Aquatic Team, and the public. Evansville’s high schools also hold meets at Lloyd Pool. However, due to the pool’s specifications, Lloyd cannot host USA Swimming meets for the club team.

Evansville residents have their choice of a few indoor swimming facilities, including two YMCA pools (one with two swim lanes) and the city-run Lloyd Pool. However, ask many of them about Lloyd Pool and you’re very likely to hear it ranks very low in their opinions. The indoor Olympic-size pool, located at 6101 N. First Ave., has served Evansville schools and residents for 40 years and is showing its age.

Lloyd Pool, built in 1975, could have about eight to 10 years left before it needs replacing. It currently cannot host USA Swimming meets due to its specifications. Brownsburg High School renovated its pool in 2004 and now hosts many meets during the year.

Built in 1975, the facility has undergone many patch-up jobs through the decades. To reach the pool, visitors walk through the locker rooms — open spaces with a few bathroom stalls and no designated changing area. The floors are concrete with occasional spots of standing water. Narrow benches offer places to sit down or perch bags. After passing by the shower stalls, a small, dark hallway leads to a ramp. At the top of this ramp, swimmers are greeted with 25-yard lanes divided by a small bulkhead. Even with the sun shining bright, Lloyd Pool is a bit dark. Only three large skylights and six rows of large, industrial lights along the ceiling illuminate the facility.

Touting 16 lanes, the 50-meter sized pool houses practices for six of Evansville’s high schools, the Greater Evansville Aquatic Team, and the public. Evansville’s high schools also hold meets at Lloyd Pool. However, due to the pool’s specifications, Lloyd cannot host USA Swimming meets for the club team.

Considering 46,897 people used Lloyd in 2014, the size of the building is a concern. “A big problem is the crowds,” says Mike Chapman, current head age group coach for the Newburgh Sea Creatures club team, which calls the Castle High School Natatorium its home. A former coach for Bosse High School and GREAT, Chapman knows the challenges Lloyd Pool facility presents to swimmers in the city. “It’s difficult. Some of the high school teams are very large and they could have up to 60 kids,” says the current Indiana age group coach of the year.

F.J. Reitz High School Swimming Head Coach Dave Baumeyer agrees crowds and space are two of the biggest problems. Baumeyer has been a part of the Reitz swim program for 14 years, with eight of those as head coach. “We’re limited to four lanes for practice time,” says Baumeyer. “The con of having only four lanes for an hour and 45 minutes is that it’s a struggle when you have six, seven, or eight kids in a lane. It just causes problems.”

Other issues arise from the age of the building itself. Though renovations have been done in recent years, the Reitz coach says it’s only a matter of time before Lloyd Pool can no longer function. “I just say every year we’re just a pump away from not having a season. The pump is old. The building still leaks a lot. It’s just old,” says Baumeyer.

Reitz senior and U.S. National Team swimmer Lilly King has been swimming since she was 8 years old, starting on the GREAT team. She has since left GREAT and now swims with the Newburgh Sea Creatures. King swam in Lloyd Pool for many years and says it is not in very good shape. “When there’s high school meets going on, it’s just absolute madness. They did just replace the liner a few years ago but before that, there was algae on the bottom and mold. The ceiling is falling apart. It’s just really a mess,” she says.

Evansville Department of Parks and Recreation Executive Director Denise Johnson says she feels the frustration of the teams and the public. She agrees a plan needs to come together for the future. But from the perspective of her department, Lloyd Pool still has life left in it. “We know we’ve probably got eight more years left and maybe beyond that,” says Johnson.

Johnson has served as the head of the parks and recreation department for three years and says she’s heard many conversations and complaints about Lloyd Pool. Johnson is faced with the task of budgeting money to care for not only the indoor facility, but all of Evansville’s parks and pools.

“It is a real concern. It’s something that we have discussions on. I hope people would understand that we really do care,” says Johnson. “We have to go back to our money, our staff, and our facilities — and shrinking budgets. You have to take everything into consideration.”

Steve Schaefer, chief of staff for the office of Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke, says the mayor also believes sustaining Lloyd for as long as possible is important. “Over the past couple of years there has been an investment by the city. I think the idea was, obviously there needs to be a long-term solution, but after the city put a $200,000 investment into (Lloyd Pool), we need to continue to use it … as long as we can, knowing that any new facility is going to be a major capital expense.”

The $200,000 investment was a large renovation in 2012 funded by the city’s capital improvement fund. A new liner was installed, which Johnson says improves the look, taking away the “ugly color or discoloration it had before.” The bulkhead and sun deck were cleaned, painted, and sealed. The ceilings in the lockers room and the lobby also were sealed. Other repairs have been made in the last few years, including painting the outside of the building and the locker rooms. Heaters also have been installed in the locker rooms.

Johnson says the facility still has a lot more to offer the city. “I think people just write it off because it’s 40 years old and they’ve heard so many things about it — bad things about it,” she says.

But a new pool still is needed and the road to an aquatic center is not an easy one, she says. In 2006, former Evansville mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel formed an aquatics task force group and put one question to them: Is there demand and need enough for city swimming pools? The 52-page assessment report contained one prominent idea — have four outdoor pools in each region of the city and one new indoor facility that’s centrally located.

It’s been almost a decade since the report was released and little has been done on the recommendations from the study, including the suggestion of a new indoor facility. Johnson says the topic of pools is a very volatile one for the city.

The biggest obstacle for pushing forward with a new center is money. “Money makes the world go round,” says Johnson. “Do we talk about it? It comes up all the time. But I fight to get what I’ve got and my budget shrinks every year. You’ve got so many competing forces. So where do we go?”

Dr. Andy Tharp, an ophthalmologist at Vision Care Center and a member of a grassroots organization supporting a new aquatic center, agrees the biggest obstacle is funding. “I applaud (the city’s) effort. I think they are doing the best they can. To be honest, I don’t think the city probably has the resources to do it on their own. It’s going to take some sort of public/private partnership with support by some of the big industries in town to help the funding,” he says.

But to get Evansville businesses involved, Tharp says the city, the school corporation, and even the University of Evansville have to declare a need for a new indoor facility. “I think if you can get to that step, it will be a big step in the right direction. Because I see all three of those as having an invested interest in bringing something about,” he says.

Lloyd Pool is not the only local indoor pool being discussed. UE’s Wyttenbach Pool was closed at the beginning of 2014 due to technical difficulties. The university’s swimming and diving team used the Castle High School Natatorium for the rest of the season. Repairs were made during the summer months and the school reopened the facility during a ceremony Aug. 27, 2014.

The University of Southern Indiana does not have swimming and diving teams but the school has a pool in the Physical Activities Center. In addition to using the pool for its own classes, USI’s pool hosts Reitz Memorial High School’s swim team practices. Noncredit classes — such as swimming lessons for children and adults — also are offered through USI’s Outreach and Engagement program.

In November 2014, the USI Board of Trustees approved a resolution to request approval from the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, the Indiana State Budget Committee, and Gov. Mike Pence to proceed with a renovation to the center. The state agreed to a $16 million capital appropriation and renovations are set to start in the spring of 2016. However, the pool may or may not be apart of those renovations. The Shield, USI’s student publication, quoted Steve Bridges, the university’s vice president for business affairs, Feb. 17 saying renovations for the pool would be discussed and thought about as they could be expensive.

As for Evansville’s city-run indoor pool, many share the thought that it may be expensive, but the benefits would be great.

Baumeyer says he believes residents of Evansville would be surprised by what a new indoor facility would do for the city. “I do think there is a demand. And all I would base that on is when Castle (High School) built their new pool, their club team doubled. I just think if Evansville had a nice facility, they would be shocked at how many people would come and use it,” says the coach.

Chapman voices a similar belief, stating large USA Swimming meets generally bring in 500 to 700 participants. “These large regional meets bring in a lot of people. (Evansville) is pretty centrally located, so we’re missing out. (The city) is putting on these large soccer tournaments where people come from all over. The same thing could happen for swimming if we had a facility for it,” he says.

If Evansville wishes to be a sports tourist destination and a fitness-orientated community, Tharp says a decent aquatic facility will need to be a part of the plan. “(The city has) done a great job with putting the Ford Center Downtown. They’ve done a great job building the ball fields and the soccer fields. This is part of the puzzle that’s missing in my opinion,” he says. “If Lloyd Pool breaks down, (the pool) will get done. So why not be proactive and do it in a timely fashion? I think everyone is motivated to do it, it’s just a big, big project,” he says.

Johnson sees many economic and tourism benefits for Evansville in a new aquatic center. “When you say: ‘Will it benefit Evansville?’ Yes, it will benefit Evansville. I will tell you that people will drive over here from Western Kentucky and Southern Illinois. So a new facility will benefit everyone beyond Evansville, (too). I know that’s not supposed to be my concern, but if we’re looking at revenue and looking at benefits, absolutely,” says the executive director.

The one thing agreed on as much as the need for a new pool is the teamwork needed from all entities that would be involved with a new aquatic center. “I think the heads of our schools are the ones who are going to have to step up and meet with the city,” says Baumeyer.

Johnson believes it will take the community as a whole to see the project through. “It takes everyone coming to the table who would use it that are players. We as a whole, the ‘we’ of the city of Evansville, need to figure out how we do this.”

For more information about Lloyd Pool, call 812-435-6085 or visit evansvillegov.org.

Victory Lap

Indiana communities see success in indoor facilities

As Evansville struggles to keep Lloyd Pool afloat for all those depending on it, other communities seem to be bypassing the city on swimming facilities and the economic benefits and tourism that come with them.

In South Bend, Indiana, a recent swim meet at the Rolf’s Aquatic Center on the campus of the University of Notre Dame brought in 600 swimmers and their families and fans from all over Indiana. According to Visit South Bend Mishawaka, the convention and visitors bureau for St. Joseph County, Indiana, the estimated economic impact of the event for the county over a three-day period was around $608,329.

Vigo County School Corp. in Terre Haute, Indiana, broke ground for a new natatorium at the beginning of 2015. Bond sales totaling $9.8 million will fund the project according to Superintendent Danny Tanoos. He says he has no doubt Terre Haute will see an economic boom from the facility.

In Hendricks County, Indiana — just west of Indianapolis — Brownsburg High School has a renovated and up-to-date swimming facility. It was completed in the fall of 2004 and now has a seating capacity of 950. Josh Duke, communications manager for the Hendricks County Convention and Visitors Bureau, says the county is beginning to hone in on sports tourism and natatoriums are a factor. “We’ve really started to realize in the last few years how important the sports tourism market is to our local economy … as far as bringing in visitors to this county,” says Duke.

He emphasized that spectators, families, teams of meets, and tournaments contribute revenue to the community. “There is a lot of economic impact while they are here. Any opportunity that we have at our disposal to bring visitors into Hendricks County is something that is only going to be a positive for everyone in the community,” says Duke. Brownsburg’s facility, according to Duke, hosts a number of meets each year. The pool also is rented out for parties and events, bringing in additional revenue.

“Any new sports facilities that can be brought in that can draw tournaments or meets that would bring in visitors to the community, is only going to enhance your economy,” he says.

For more information about Visit South Bend Mishawaka, call 800-519-0577 or visit visitsouthbend.com. For more information about the Hendricks County Convention and Visitors Bureau, call 800-321-9666 or visit visithendrickscounty.com.

Comments

No Comments

Have something to say about this article? Log in or register to share your opinion.

Find an Article

View all stories from: