Lexington residents want a new family aquatic center, according to preliminary results of a survey of more than 5,000 people.
Other features on top of residents' wish lists include an indoor lap pool, splash pads and "spraygrounds" for children, and an indoor pool.
Preliminary results of a new Lexington aquatics master plan were presented Tuesday during the Urban County Council's General Government and Social Service Committee meeting. The final $150,000 aquatics master plan will be presented Nov. 30.
The city hired the firm Brandstetter Carroll in May to develop a master plan for the city's aquatics program. The final plan will look at reasons behind declining attendance at the city's seven pools, and the feasibility of starting an indoor aquatics center and adding other water features.
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Despite closing several pools in recent years, the program continues to struggle. It has an operating budget of $1.2 million but generates only $600,000 in revenue. Attendance at the city's pools has declined from 200,000 visitors in 2011 to 140,000 in 2014.
Some of the drop in attendance can be attributed to consecutive rainy summers.
"But we also know we have dated facilities. We have a lot of pools with a lot of years on them," said Monica Conrad, director of the city's Parks and Recreation Department.
Brandstetter Carroll surveyed people online or at the city's pools over the summer about their wants and complaints about the city's pools. In addition, several public forums were held.
Pat Hoagland of Brandstetter Carroll told the council Tuesday that Lexington residents are going to Madison, Franklin and Scott counties to swim and spend money at newer aquatics centers.
"This is all preliminary information," Hoagland said of some of the results presented Tuesday. The group is waiting on a random survey to be completed.
Preliminary results show that 67 percent of the respondents said fees at the pools were "about right." About 67 percent use the city's pools for recreation. Only 6 percent of respondents use city pools for competitive swimming.
Adults said they wanted an indoor year-round aquatics center, they want the swim season to last longer and want the city to upgrade its pools. Families wanted taller water slides, a lazy river at some aquatics centers, an indoor year-round pool and more interactive play features.
"The lazy river was popular with all ages — including senior citizens," Hoagland said. "Shade was important as well."
Hoagland said that based on responses, the most important program the city offers is swimming lessons.
Hoagland said the master plan is looking at population shifts to determine where any new pool should be built.
Preliminary data show that Masterson Station and the Hamburg area are underserved. That means people in those areas have to drive farther to get to a city-owned pool or aquatics center, Hoagland said.
Brandstetter Carroll will return in November with more detailed results of the survey, with options and other recommendations. "We are also doing a lot of stakeholder meetings in the next month," Hoagland said. Some of those groups include police, senior citizens, people with disabilities and the schools.
Hoagland said there will be a structure analysis of all the city's pools to determine the cost of upgrades.
The goal is to have an action plan in December.
Many on the council said Tuesday that the city's aquatics program has lagged those of surrounding counties and cities.
"I think we are behind times with communities of our size without having some real good pools," Councilman Fred Brown said. An indoor pool is a must, he said.
Councilwoman Jennifer Scutchfield, who is on the parks advisory board and has participated in the aquatics mater plan, said that after the master plan is presented in November, the council can add recommendations to the Brandstetter Carroll report. "We can build new pools, but if we don't teach kids how to swim, we won't have people to swim in them," Scutchfield said.
The pools have been included in several master park plans over the years, but the last aquatics master plan was completed in 1999.