Fueled by a growing list of supporters and an extended deadline, the effort to save the indoor water sports center at Columbia’s Meltdown Rec continues to gain traction.
At least $155,000 has been pledged by local backers to fund renovations to the two pools operated by the privately owned recreation center located on Oak Springs Drive.
A week earlier, the effort had gathered a total of $65,000 in pledges.
In exchange for the contributions, supporters will receive advertising space at the local facility.
After a two-week extension from Muletown Rec, the initiative’s leader Gale Moore said an additional $190,000 must be raised to make the necessary repairs to keep the pools open.
“We don’t have much time,” Moore, a Boston Marathon runner, Aquathlon Championship racer and local swimming instructor, told The Daily Herald. “We have reached out to a lot of people. The largest expenditures will be covered. If we raise this money, we are good for the next 20 to 25 years. If we don’t, we will just be kicking ourselves, because it would be gone.”
Especially during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Moore said the greater Maury County community faces losing one of its strongest sources of year-round exercise and wellness opportunities, as it continues to battle obesity rates and other health issues that come from the lack of a healthy diet and exercise.
The city’s public outdoor pool, located in Fairview Park, has remained closed for the summer as the state continues to battle the spread of the virus.
There is no evidence that COVID-19 can be spread to humans through the use of recreational waters, the Centers for Disease Control stated.
“Swimming is one of the best exercises,” Moore said. “Studies show chlorine kills the virus, and pools provide an opportunities to exercise while remaining socially distant. It is just a terrible time to be cutting off an exercise option and a mental health relief.”
After initially declining a proposal to fund the needed renovations, the City of Columbia has agreed to support Muletown Rec for the next three years by providing memberships to its employees.
The promise sidesteps potential complications of a government providing direct funding to a for-profit business.
“This support will help in the year-round support of the pools by adding $100,000 a year to help in the on-going maintenance and personnel required to run the pools,” Moore said.
Protective supporters can pledge for three advertising tiers, set at $5,000, $10,000 and $20,000. The contributions would offer support for advertising space at the facility for two years.
Mr. B’s Air Duct Cleaning, Industrial Contractors and realtor the McEwen Group have all signed on to provide financial support to the initiative.
The Columbia-based JRN, Inc, which owns KFC franchises across the south, recently signed on to support the pools with a $20,000 contribution.
Moore said that the local medical community has also stepped up to provided many of the added pledges.
Muletown Rec CEO Michael McNutt previously said the ongoing cost of maintenance and repairs of the center’s indoor pools resulted in the largest portion of the operating costs, while showing the least overall member utilization for the fitness center.
He said the indoor pools are also in need of several high-cost renovations, including the replacement of a dehumidification system. The lap pool must also be resurfaced, and the center’s whirlpool is in need of a new heater and plumbing.
The repairs needed total $400,000. If the funds needed to make necessary repairs to the pools are not raised, Muletown Rec will permanently close the indoor aquatics facility.
McNutt promised that despite the closure of the indoor pools, Multown Rec’s outdoor swimming facilities would remain open and available for use.
Proponents of the indoor facility have continually stated that the loss of the pools would lead to a dramatic decline in the quality of life for Columbia’s residents, resulting in at least 10 local swim teams being forced to find a new home, as well as the loss of a source of exercise for those in physical therapy, especially the region’s elderly residents.
More than 60 students athletes enrolled at Maury County Public Schools use the indoor facility to practice and host meets for their local swim teams.
Moore and other supporters have continually argued that while the repairs may cost thousands, the construction for a new indoor aquatics center will cost investors an estimated $10 million.
“Building a facility that would meet these needs would cost millions. What we need for our community exists in a great location. Letting the pools slip away would be a huge waste of resources,” Moore said. “It serves all populations with the two-pool set-up. From the child who takes his first swim to the octogenarian, to the teenager who is on the swim team, to the young adults striving for fitness, the indoor pools are an important part of life for many Maury County citizens and should continue to be.”
Previously a YMCA, the indoor aquatics center was originally funded by a series of fundraising efforts carried out by the nonprofit organization, before its entire operation was closed in late 2013.
“If the pools close, it will be a tremendous setback for Columbia, as it will show us moving backward instead of forward when it comes to quality of life issues for all of our citizens,” Moore said. “Muletown Rec has been extremely generous to fund the pools for the past 4 years since they bought the facility. They inherited pools which were dormant for a year and which suffered from lack of maintenance. I think it is important to remember the funds to build these pools came from our community. This is an opportunity to reinvest.”
David Baxter of Medical Necessities purchased the 55,000 square-foot building at 1446 Oak Springs Drive for $1.6 million in 2016 following the extended closure.
“I think we are lucky that there is someone who did step forward with organization and the manpower to keep it open,” Moore said. “They poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into them and have fixed many of the major issues,” Moore said.
Muletown Rec is home to an exercise center, an indoor Olympic-sized lap pool and an indoor aquatic-therapy pool, along with an outdoor pool, men and women’s saunas and a 4-foot kid’s pool with slide and fountain.
Note: For additional information on how to support the initiative to keep the indoor pools at Muletown Rec open, contact Gale Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org.