The superintendent of the Bowling Green Independent School District said he appreciates the Bowling Green City Commission’s recent willingness to explore a partnership with the district for a new indoor, public pool.
“I think a community this big should have an indoor swimming pool,” Superintendent Gary Fields told the Daily News last week after the issue came up at the city commission’s annual retreat.
During the retreat, city commissioners discussed a range of long-term projects and goals, including a partnership proposed by the city schools to, in some way, partner for an indoor pool available to both the school district and the public.
Although no binding votes were taken at the retreat, commissioners voiced a consensus to at least explore further the possible partnership, including cost, location and management.
Commissioner Brian “Slim” Nash voiced strong support for exploring the partnership. The dearth of local swimming facilities has driven many swim competitions to Owensboro, he said.
“You think people want to go to Owensboro instead of Bowling Green?” he asked at the retreat. “I don’t.”
Fields shared a similar view with the Daily News, adding that a swimming facility is needed to complete Bowling Green’s golf courses, ball fields and other athletic facilities.
At issue is the fact that the state will not allow the district to use restricted building funds to rebuild its high school pool due to it being deemed an athletic facility, Fields said. The swimming facility, which dates to 1970, is approaching 50 years old, he said.
“So we have to use general fund money,” Fields said.
Demolishing and rebuilding the pool at another location on the high school campus is part of a broader renovation project. Eventually, the space where the current natatorium stands will be converted into a courtyard for students.
Fields said the district disagrees with the state’s stance on the issue. “It’s been there for 50 years, and we’re just replacing it. We’re not doing anything new,” he said.
Additionally, Fields said a wide range of local groups use the high school’s pool, from senior citizens to the Boy Scouts to emergency responders.
“There’s numerous organizations that use our pool and nine times out of 10 at no cost,” he said.
Previously, a pool owned by Warren County Public Schools at 303 Lovers Lane was made available to the public through an agreement between the county government and Commonwealth Health Corp., but in 2014, CHC opted to discontinue the agreement and the facility has been closed to the general public.
The agreement was put into place after the county initially planned to close the center to the public as part of budget cuts to the parks and recreation department. Public outcry, particularly from seniors who relied on the facility for exercise, spurred the county to seek a solution.
Although the potential partnership with the city is still “in the very early stages,” Fields said “hopefully this will at least start the conversation.”
– Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @BGDN_edbeat or visit bgdailynews.com.