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.