Tim Davis, swim coach for Cleveland High School, said Nelson Bowers, owner of the property, would be willing to make the project a joint venture. Bowers paid for the architectural drawings and gathered the cost estimates presented to the board.
“This is visionary for the community and the Cleveland City Schools,” board member Dawn Robinson said of the facility.
Facility drawings included a college-competition-sized indoor pool for use by Cleveland City Schools and Lee University students, a therapy pool, space for Cleveland City Schools administrative offices, space for city and county development staff and a 750- to 800-seat theater with space for an art gallery and offices or classrooms.
“As many amenities as you can bring to the site, the more varied your options are for straight grant money,” Davis said.
An initial estimate to build the proposed facility on the Parker Street site was about $13.5 million, with an additional $2.8 million to purchase the building and the land. Davis said the city of Cleveland has an opportunity to borrow the money from the state interest-free, if it is paid back in 10 years. Davis has spoken to the city about the project, which expressed interest if Davis could find a way to pay for it. Davis said he thought the best way to run the facility would be through a nonprofit organization formed by representatives from the entities using the facilities.
One goal of the proposed project is to get the whole community involved. Benchmark Physical Therapy has already expressed an interest in leasing the therapy pool, according to Davis. In less than two years, this plan would start bringing in revenue. Davis said hosting swimming competitions would also bring revenue into the community.
Others have also expressed interested in the project. Davis said Dr. Walt Mauldin, vice president for administration at Lee University, had submitted a letter of intent to Cleveland City Schools stating that if the facility was built, Lee would be interested in leasing the pool while the city students were in school, providing swim passes to students for a voluntary fee and having men’s and women’s swim teams.
In a phone interview, Mauldin said he had been contacted by Davis about the project in October. Since then they have spoken on the subject several times.
“We view this as an excellent opportunity for our students,” Mauldin said. Mauldin also mentioned the facility could be used for aquatic classes that would be a part of the physical education credit options for the university.
Davis said he was “not sold on the location” but simply exploring it as an option. An alternative site would be behind The Teen Learning Center between Oak and Spring streets. The committee discussed the pros and cons of each site.
Site committee member Steve Morgan also expressed concern about the legal aspects of partnering with other organizations. Site committee chairman Dr. Murl Dirksen said the school system needed to focus on building an elementary school and teachers’ salaries, but he does not want to totally dismiss the idea yet.
Morgan made a motion that Davis and Dr. Rick Denning, director of schools, keep working on getting information on how much the facility would cost the school system; what local groups would definitely participate; a construction timeline, and an outline of the responsibilities of the school board in the project. The motion was unanimously passed by the three committee members.
This was not the first time the site and project were presented to the site committee. According to previous articles, about three months ago Tom Cate of Spring Creek Development asked the board to consider the site. Later, board members toured the location.
- The committee also received an update on potential sites for a new elementary school. Denning said the property owners who were considering donating land for a new school will be unable to do so. This was the property listed as option G in a previous site committee meeting. Denning said the property owners will be submitting a price for the land to the committee. A motion was passed to give the property owners 30 days to submit a price to the board.