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Missing piece of recreation
Swim center set to open in May
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The site plan of the future aquatic center shows the facility's features. - photo by Jennifer Sami


On track and within budget, the Cumming Aquatic Center is rising off Pilgrim Mill Road.

Winter Construction is working quickly on the $15 million center, which is set to open in May.

“These guys are doing a great job of keeping on schedule,” said City Administrator Gerald Blackburn.

Steve Bennett, assistant city administrator, said much work remains. However, given all the hiccups leading up to the construction phase, he’s glad to see things running smoothly.

“It seemed like it took forever,” Bennett said of a project years in the making. “But they’ve pretty well got the facility to where it can be worked on during the winter.”

Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt said he’s “elated we’re going to have an aquatic center.”

“It’s something that’s been very much needed and sought after for many years. It was a missing piece of recreation in Cumming and Forsyth County,” he said.

That missing piece will be unlike anything in the immediate area, as a recent tour of the construction site revealed.

Facility will be event friendly

The 50,000-square-foot building will house two pools. The first is a physical therapy pool designed for rehabilitative purposes with hospitals and other medical facilities.

“The cool thing about this therapy pool is the zero-depth entry, so you can literally roll someone down in their wheelchair,” said Joshua Stinger, project engineer.

The second will be a 50-meter competition pool.

“That’s the key feature,” Stinger said. “The draw for the pool is to get state competitions and for the local high schools in the area, for them to use the facility for their training.”

Bryan Rhoden, project superintendent, said the pool also has a metal “floating platform.”

“So if it’s going to be a shorter race, it can be brought out to make it shorter,” he said.

In addition to providing versatility, Stinger said the platform will allow the pool “to do all the things that the state would require for an actual competition.”

The deep end of the pool descends 13.5 feet. There will be three diving wells, two 1-meter and one 3-meter, and seating for nearly 750 people.

Bleachers will allow for an additional 300 people, meeting college-level competition requirements of more than 1,000 seats, Rhoden said.

Among the facility’s other features will be a reception desk, concession area, showers and fitness, laundry and locker rooms.
There also will be rooms that can be rented for special events.

The facility will act as an access point to the outdoor leisure pool, Stinger’s favorite part of the project.

“There’s going to be some pretty cool kids’ play activity things out at the leisure pool,” he said. “There’s going to be a water slide and what’s called an elevation, which is basically like a jungle gym with water in it.

“There will also be the lazy river, water cannons and what they call geysers, which are going to ... spray water out of the ground.”

While the leisure area is outdoors, Rhoden said there will be “big, 20-foot diameter metal umbrellas,” providing “shade out there for everybody.”

The leisure area will be the greatest revenue generator for the city, Blackburn said, especially while it is first attracting statewide competitions.

“A water park, that’s what the kids are going to call it,” he said.

Because the facility is outdoors, however, use likely will be tricky during the first year.

“We’re working on the assumption we’re going to get it done in May,” Blackburn said. “But if we lose part of the summer season, that’s going to affect how we’re going to put together our budget.

“That will be a heavy-used area during the summer, but it won’t be used during the winter because it’s not heated.”

Pool that will be local, ‘used a lot’

The city has been planning the aquatic center for many years.

In March 2007, it bought nearly 70 acres off Pilgrim Mill Road for the development.

The site is also being used for a National Guard armory and a Department of Driver Services facility. In addition, the city is in talks to bring a campus of North Georgia College & State University there.

About $5 million of the aquatic project came from the city’s portion of the fifth round of the 1-cent sales tax. The remaining $10 million came from the sixth round of the tax, paid in advance by the county in December 2008.

Winter Construction was tapped to handle construction in January 2009. The company’s fee is 2.5 percent of the total project cost.

Construction, which was supposed to be complete by year’s end, was held up by a lawsuit.

The suit related to complications from environmental violations dating back to 2008, when the property was first cleared. The issue has since been resolved.

Gravitt, Cumming’s mayor, said he makes daily trips to the construction site, with every few weeks bringing major differences.

“It’s a state-of-the-art complex and I think it’ll be received real well and I can’t wait until it gets completed,” he said.

Also excited about the project is county resident Dale Leonard, an avid swimmer who said he’s hoping to use the facility for daily exercise.

Leonard currently uses the Hearthstone Lodge Community Center swimming pool, which is open only to residents 50 years and older.

With few public pools in Forsyth, Leonard said he and other members of the swimming community are pleased with the potential of the new aquatic center.

“We’re looking forward to being able to do lap swimming in our own lanes,” he said.

“Right now, we have to swim three or four people in one lane and it’s very uncomfortable having to try to swim and exercise and look out for people coming at you from two different directions.”

Folks like Leonard are the main reason city leaders developed the project, Gravitt said. While there will be a fee to use the facility, it will be the same for both city and county residents.

Early next year, Gravitt said the city’s recreation department will send out brochures with hours, prices and schedules.

Also receiving the information will be local high schools, which might be able to use the facility for swim team practice. 

“All that’s a work in progress,” Gravitt said. “I’m most excited about the people in Cumming and Forsyth County that’s going to be able to use it.

“They can have a pool that will be local. It’s going to be used a lot, we hope.”