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The Shopper

The Shopper

Monday, January 14, 2013 7:59 PM

Photo by Matt Bristow/The Ottawa Herald

A pool sits drained Monday at the former Swim for Life Aquatic Center, 913 E. Wilson St., Ottawa. Area residents Alan Wright and Richard Dietz said they are in the process of reviving the facility in hopes it will benefit the community.

Will community support a revived indoor pool venture?

By DOUG CARDER, Herald Senior Writer

A mossy film covered the brackish surface of the indoor pool on Ottawa’s north side.

But area residents Alan Wright and Richard Dietz didn’t let the moss cloud their vision. The two men said Monday they saw great potential in reopening the facility at 913 E. Wilson St. as either a public or private pool.

The two men said they purchased the former Swim for Life indoor pool building in June from the Ebeck family for an undisclosed sum.

The green and tan building, accented with weather vanes on top, looks like a giant barn from the road. But inside, work continued Monday to make the indoor pool buoyant.

“The building had stood vacant since 2009, so we weren’t sure if it could be used as a pool again,” Dietz, a rural Ottawa resident, said. “But we thought the building was priced reasonably enough that even if we had to fill in the pool, the building was still a good investment.”

Telling The Herald the pool was no longer feasible, Joe Ebeck closed the facility in 2009. Ebeck said his father, Hal Ebeck, purchased the pool during a public auction in February 2008, and it reopened later that year.

The building has been used sporadically since it was built by Mark and Carolyn Retzer in 2003 and closed three years later. The 25-foot by 75-foot pool has been used for lap swimming, aquatic aerobics, physical therapy, swimming lessons and private memberships for individuals and families.

“After we purchased the building, we went through a step-by-step process to make sure all the pool’s mechanical systems were in working order,” Dietz said. “Some minor repairs had to be made along the way, and the liner had to be replaced, but we found that it could function as a pool again.”

The pool, which is drained at the moment as repair work continues, could be filled and operational in four to six weeks, Dietz estimated.

But the big question, Dietz said, would be: Operated by whom?

Dietz, who works in Kansas City, and Wright, a Baldwin City resident and co-owner of A & H Heating & Cooling in Baldwin City, said they have no interest in running the pool. Wright said he would like to see the pool run by people who have experience in pool management as a community pool for everyone to enjoy.

Dietz agreed.

“We would like to see it turned into a community pool, if there’s enough interest in the community for an indoor pool,” Dietz said. “That’s the stage we are at right now — gauging community interest.”

The two men told Ottawa Recreation Commission board members at their meeting Wednesday that they thought the indoor pool should be a community asset for everyone to enjoy affordably and eventually should be under public ownership.

Dietz told ORC board members they were hopeful they could work out a deal where the recreation commission or another public entity would lease the pool and the recreation commission would operate it. Then, after a set period of years, the men said they would donate the building to the city, and the community would own it from that point forward.

“Those are just our initial ideas,” Dietz said. “We are still in the very early stages of this discussion.”

Dan Stepp, ORC board president, told the men Wednesday he applauded what they were doing.

“We support it, though we have financial considerations,” Stepp said. “We’ll be happy to help anyway we can.”

Jeff Curry, ORC board member, said Wednesday night he thought there would be support for the pool in the community.

“There is a consensus that the community wants the pool,” Curry said.

Dietz said he and Wright realized since the pool was in a residential neighborhood, it had operated with a special-use permit.

“We would have to put in some landscaping and fencing to mitigate headlights and noise and obtain a special-use permit,” Dietz said. “But all of that is down the road.”

The indoor facility also could be sold to a private entity that would charge membership fees, Dietz said, but he said the owners would prefer to see the pool benefit the entire community.

“Ever since we started working on the pool, we’ve had people stop by and ask us if we are planning to reopen it,” Dietz said. “I had a woman tell me she used to come here for water aerobics. And I know the swim team used to practice here. We’re hoping the community will let us and the city know if there is an interest in having an indoor pool.”

Jeanny Sharp, Herald editor and publisher, contributed to this report.

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