SIOUX CITY | Close three pools. Build a regional aquatic center.
In two unanimous votes Monday, Sioux City’s pool committee laid out a plan to close Cook, Leeds and Lewis pools while exploring ways to preserve the deteriorating Leif Erikson Pool, which could face closure in the future.
Under the committee's public recommendation, Cook and Leeds would be closed after the 2016 swim season and replaced with splash pads. Lewis Pool would close and be replaced with a proposed $5 million to $9 million regional aquatic center near the proposed Cone Park site east of IBP Ice Center.
“Cook and Leeds -- they both have a very low attendance at the pools and a very high subsidy,” said Matt Salvatore, the city’s parks and recreation director. “Those pools definitely serve a purpose, but the committee made a decision to move forward with what’s the best for Sioux City and the future of our pools, taking into account the taxpayer dollars.”
Leeds Pool, which opened in 2000, is one of the city’s newer facilities.
Eventually, the committee said, Leif Erikson would probably be closed when the facility is no longer structurally viable. The city could then replace it with a splash pad or explore alternatives.
The committee’s action Monday does not give the final say to close any of the city’s five municipal pools. Sioux City has the same number of pools as Des Moines, a city with more than twice the population.
Committee members, who include city officials and citizens, will seek community feedback during a meeting in December. The next step will be to form a recommendation to present to the City Council for final approval.
In April, Dave Schwartz of Lenexa, Kansas-based Waters Edge Aquatic Design recommended closure of Lewis and Leif Erikson pools and told city officials that Leif Erikson's failing infrastructure allows water to escape through its pool basin. The city paid $22,000 for the study.
However, after discussion Monday and several town hall meetings in Sioux City, the committee identified Leif Erikson as an important neighborhood pool for the city’s north side.
“There are some major structural issues with Leif Erikson Pool,” Salvatore said. “We don’t know how long it’s going to last. We would like to operate that pool as long as possible.”
Schwartz, who attended Monday’s meeting, said city staff could measure the elevation of each pool corner at Leif Erikson to help assess the pool’s leak rate and life expectancy. But even if the city did this, Schwartz added it would be “hard to tell” how long the pool would last.
City officials have previously said that fixing Leif Erikson would not be fiscally responsible because repairs would either match or exceed the cost of building a new pool.
City Councilman Pete Groetken, a member of the pool committee who attended several of the town hall meetings, said he was “haunted” by the concept of taking pools away from neighborhoods.
“I don’t know where everyone goes when we close Leif,” Groetken said during Monday’s meeting. “Everyone wants their neighborhood pools, and I don’t know how to satisfy that.”