The splashy Suffoletta Family Aquatic Center in Georgetown has gone through more than its share of ups and downs since opening in 2007, and now it's back in rough water again.
Or rather, Suffoletta is out of water.
The aquatic center failed to open at the beginning of summer after leaks were discovered in underground pipes that supply water to the center. Last week, officials at the Georgetown-Scott County Parks and Recreation Department confirmed that, given the extensive repairs that will be required, Suffoletta won't open this year.
The cause of the leaks remains unknown, Parks and Recreation director Geri Remley said.
"It's unfortunate," Remley said. "Here it is the hottest summer in 50 years, and the pool is still not open."
Remley said the plan now is to proceed with repairs and have Suffoletta ready to reopen next summer. She said she hopes to have a report from contractors by Monday outlining what repairs will cost.
The price tag apparently could be substantial. Remley said work crews will have to dig through the pool floor to uncover the leaking pipes, remove and replace them, pressure-test the system, and then pour a new concrete floor over the hole.
The problem already is hitting the parks and recreation department in the pocketbook.
Remley said that with Suffoletta shut down for the entire summer, the department expects to lose an estimated $100,000 in daily pool fees and other associated revenue. Officials also will have to refund more than $11,000 to people who had bought summer passes for the pool, she said.
The $6 million aquatic fun center has a lot to offer. It boasts a shallow leisure pool covering almost 8,000 square feet, a 1,200-square-foot splash pad for young children, a five-story water slide and a 700-foot "lazy river," designed to duplicate the feel of drifting down a stream on an inner tube. But Suffoletta also has a history of problems.
Conceived about 2002, it opened in mid-summer 2007, a little more than a year after the target opening date. Officials blamed various construction delays at the time.
After a successful season in 2008, Suffoletta didn't open for 2009 until late July because it wasn't in compliance with a new federal law requiring safety covers over pool drains to prevent children or others from being pulled in. Officials had hired a contractor to install the drains but decided not to open Suffoletta until the work was completed.
The aquatic park was open in 2010 and 2011. But missing the entire 2012 season means Suffoletta has been out of operation for all or parts of three of its first six swimming seasons.
"Sometimes I guess maybe it seems like there's been a dark cloud floating above that area," Georgetown City Councilman Larry Prather said last week. "After this latest thing, it might start to put a black mark over it. But people generally are quick to forget things like that."
Prather said the main complaint that he has heard about Suffoletta is that it lacks a full-fledged swimming pool. Plans call for a lap pool to be added later.
Remley said Suffoletta's problems amount to a series of unrelated problems, not some kind of run of bad luck.
"Sometimes things just happen," she said. "We're not associating it with bad luck."
Remley said the leak was discovered when workers started filling the Suffoletta pool last spring. A contractor was brought in and spent several weeks testing the pipes, ultimately identifying 10 leaks in lines running under the pool, she said.
The pipes have been in place since the aquatic center was built and had never leaked before, she said.
The leaks apparently developed over the winter. Remley said there has been some "speculation and rumor in the community" as to what caused the leaks, but no one knows for sure yet.
"We winterized the pool last year the same way we do every year," she said. "And we had a very mild winter.
"There is no crack in the pool shell itself; it's the piping underneath. But we will not know what caused the leaks until we physically remove some portions of concrete and expose the pipes. At that point, we should have a better understanding of what's going on and why it leaked."
The indoor pool at the Community Sport and Activity Pavilion in Georgetown remains available for swimming. And Remley said she's heard that "quite a few people" have used Lexington city pools while Suffoletta is closed down.
Officials plan to complete repairs at Suffoletta before winter weather arrives so the aquatic park will be ready when warm weather comes next spring.
But the work will be time consuming. Remley said that once a new concrete floor for the pool is poured, it would have to "cure" for at least 30 days.
"One contractor told us that there are things you can add to concrete to make it cure more quickly," she said. "But when you're dealing with the bottom of a pool, it's something that you don't want to expose to potential future problems."