College Station is once again looking into building a natatorium, but this time the school district is not alone.

The Bryan-College Station Convention and Visitors Bureau has taken the reins in exploring the possibility of building a public natatorium that would be used by the Bryan and College Station school districts as well as both cities.

The bureau created a task force to determine if such a swimming facility is needed and is joined by representatives from the cities and school districts, Texas A&M Rec Services and various community members, said Shannon Overby, the executive director of the visitors bureau.

The task force is currently looking into funding a feasibility study that will determine the cost of building and operating a natatorium in the area.

"We need someone to come in and really do all of the work to see is it needed, is it warranted, where would it be, who would pay, who would operate it, what size would it need to be, and then, as we started really looking at operations, who's going to run it," Overby said.

The visitors bureau is looking at paying a consulting firm between $55,000 and $69,0000 for the feasibility study, which will be split between the parties on the task force. The task force is considering applications from four firms right now, Overby said, and will know how much each party will pay once a consultant is hired.

This is the second time the city has considered building a new aquatic center; the College Station school board debated adding a natatorium to the $83.5 million bond election last summer but dropped the idea.

"We did not go forward with placing it ultimately on the 2013 bond referendum, but in our conversations that we had, there was an interest in looking with other community partners at the possibility of a community-wide natatorium, and others around the community heard that and picked up that ball," said Clark Ealy, the deputy superintendent.

Last August, College Station Superintendent Eddie Coulson said a 50-meter-by-25-yard pool would cost an estimated $30 million and could translate into a net loss of about $300,000 annually for the district.

The feasibility study will help both cities decide how much the natatorium would cost to operate and how much the center would benefit the cities economically, said Karl Mooney, a College Station councilmember.

There is one natatorium at College Station Middle School, which Mooney said is inadequate for the needs of students. There is also a private natatorium at Texas A&M that can be rented out by the community. However, as the university's student population continues to grow, Mooney said the chances to rent out the facility may prove slim.

The task force will ask the consulting firm to study the addition of the swimming center and also a gymnasium and meeting rooms in order to hold more sporting events. Mooney said the center could possibly bring in economic prospects for both cities by drawing people into the city for sporting events.

Parents have also said the new aquatic center could bring more competitions and organizations to the area.

Jim Ross, a father of three swimmers, said it's difficult to find lane swim time in College Station.

"I believe if the city of College Station is forward enough and thinks about bringing in a 50-meter pool ... with the addition of a group pool between the districts and cities, we would be one of the only communities our size that has two Olympic-size swimming pools, and I think we would have a phenomenal number of people visit our community -- we could host some of the largest events in the nation," Ross said.

Once the task force hires a consultant to lead the feasibility study, Overby expects to make presentations to the city councils at the end of August.

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(5) comments

STM

$30M to build a 50x25 pool with a cover? And $55,000 for a feasibility study? It is always feasible as long as you are willing to pay $30M for it. $30M can buy you a thousand endless pools and more.

A. Nerd

"there is one natatorium at College Station Middle School, which Mooney said is inadequate for the needs of students. There is also a private natatorium at Texas A&M that can be rented out by the community. However, as the university's student population continues to grow, Mooney said the chances to rent out the facility may prove slim."

How is the CSMS pool inadequate for student needs? It worked fine for me everytime I was in it. And the REC center pool is vacant most of the time while usually having open lanes in the lap pool behind the main pool and outside pool. Add in the existing public pools and private subdivision pools and it seems to me like BCS is well-stocked in the pool category.

Summer Wilson

When was the last time you went to the rec? And what times are you going? Whenever we go to swim between 11 and 1 (multiple times a week) it is always packed in the indoor 50m pool, which is the biggest pool. During the day, only half the pool open for rec swimming. We've had multiple times where we had to wait 10-15 minutes to get a lane.

The other half of that pool stays reserved for classes during the bulk of the day except on Friday and then its usually for one for the aquatic teams. The dive well technically has 8 lanes, but most of the time it only has two lanes for rec swimming, if even that. On weekends it may not be as bad, except when there are events as there often are, and as summer approaches, that weekend traffic starts to pick up.

The instructional pool is not a "lap pool" - it isn't a full 25 yard pool and it is only available by request some times. It's designed for classes and pool aerobics, not lap swimming. The outdoor pool, which only has 6 lanes, only recently switched to regular hours as it is closed for all but 3 hours of the day during the winter, and obviously it is only really usable if the weather is good.

And this year, from May to September, all 3 indoor pools will be closed for the renovations, leaving the one six lane outside pool to handle ALL swimming at the rec.

Jim Ross

I was misquoted in this article regarding the Natatorium Study. Texas A & M has been and exceptional partner and host location for Aggieland Kids Triathlon over the past 3 years. Parents and kids across the state of Texas love coming to College Station and visiting Texas A &M while their kids compete in this unique event. This cooperative effort has allowed us to grow the Aggieland Kids TRI to one of the largest of its kind in the nation. Texas A&M and its world class facilities are an ideal location for this special event.

As a College Station resident who swims and parent of 3 young swimmers, it is extremely difficult to find lane swim time in College Station. In fact there are NO year round swim lanes in College Station open to the public. College Station swimmers must drive to Bryan Aquatic to swim and kids that swim on the Aggie swim club either swim in the undersized and crowded middle school natatorium, drive to Bryan Aquatic which is inconvenient for College Station residents or swim at the Texas A&M natatorium where parents have to pay parking fees each time the kids swim. Additionally, our new College Station High School that recently opened does not even have a swim team due to the lack of facilities in College Station.

The city of College Station and BCS area would be extremely well-served by a public natatorium. The combination of Texas A&M Natatorium coupled with an additional 50 meter pool in BCS would ideally position our area to host some of the largest swim events in the nation. This would no doubt bring in thousands of visitors annually. Additionally, kids, seniors, and the general public would also benefit tremendously from a year round facility.

Nunya Bidness

Inconvenient to drive to Bryan from College Station? Really? I live south of College Station and can get to the Producer's Coop in north Bryan about 20-25 minutes. It would take me under 20 to get to the Bryan Aquatic center. That's inconvenient?

This isn't Houston, or Austin, or Dallas. You can get from one end of the county to the other, north to south, in under 30 minutes. There's nothing in Brazos County that can be considered "inconvenient" in terms of distance.

I don't swim, nor to the majority of residents of Brazos County. Why should we pay for a new facility just so it's more convenient for you?

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