Friday, March 7, 2003
Swim center construction to begin Carlisle donations lag far behind Concord
Builders of the new community swim and fitness center on the CCHS campus will break ground on the project in April or May, and while the center will be open to all Carlisle and Concord residents, only a small fraction of the $2.3 million donated by individuals has come from Carlisle. Deb Girard, director of fundraising for the project, is not sure why the effort has failed to generate wide support here, but guesses that Carlisle residents usually don't begin to feel part of the Concord community until their children start high school. She says, "Getting into Carlisle has been tough. I think there's a sense in Carlisle, that unless you have kids at the high school, you don't have much in common with Concord. Then all of a sudden your kids go to high school and you become part of a larger community. I think this [swim center] will start that process earlier."
The as-yet-unnamed center will house an Olympic-sized lap pool, a shallow recreation pool, and a diving well. Exercise and weight training equipment will be available, as well as locker rooms, childcare area, a kitchen, and community all-purpose rooms. Swimming lessons, a community swim team, water and fitness classes for all ages, and summer recreation programs will be offered to residents of the two towns. While membership fees have not yet been finalized, Girard foresees that family memberships will be in the range of $800 to $900 per year. Fees at private swim clubs in the area run from $1,500 to over $3,000 per year. Construction is scheduled to last 18 to 20 months, so a grand opening is expected in Fall 2004.
The total cost of the project is $8.7 million,and $2.9 million must be raised from private donations and grants. The planners were determined to build the center without relying on tax dollars from either town. Once complete, the center will be gifted to the Town of Concord and yearly operations and maintenance will be managed by the Concord Recreation Department. Like Carlisle's Recreation Department, Concord's is almost entirely self-supported; the fees charged for programs cover the cost of the offerings, so there should be no financial impact on either town once the recreation department takes over the center. Girard says that C. C. Pools, the non-profit organization that has spearheaded the fundraising and development of the project, has been speaking with the Carlisle Recreation Department to explore whether our town would share some of the programming and operation of the center once it is open.
Of the original $5 million that was bequeathed to the towns from the Alfred Sawyer Trust, $3.5 million will be used for design and construction, and $1.5 million is to be set aside as an endowment. The endowment is earmarked to cover any capital and operating expense overages not covered in the center's year-to-year budget. According to Girard, this protects Concord and Carlisle residents from being asked to foot any large bills in the future.
Fundraising efforts have raised $2.3 million so far, leaving a gap of more than $2 million. If that gap isn't closed before construction is completed, Girard says plans for the building may have to be scaled back.
Some Carlisle residents have hesitated to be fully supportive of the project, fearing that the facilities will end up being used exclusively by the high school swim and diving teams and the Concord recreation department. Girard says that the center will host the high school's swimming and diving teams, but that their seasons are only about three months long. Similarly, she does not foresee that recreation department offerings will have an adverse effect on the availability of the facilities for private residents and their families. The four-foot deep pool will be for the exclusive use of youngsters and for some water fitness classes.
Another potential drawback for Carlisle residents may be the relative distance of the swim center from Carlisle. Sited across Thoreau Street from the high school in Concord Center, many Carlisle residents would have to travel eight or more miles in each direction to use the pools. A few people in town have raised the idea of developing our own community pool and tennis club on town-owned land. While there may be plenty of support for such a project, it is no more than a passing idea. Over in Concord, however, the construction equipment is being readied to start digging in a matter of weeks. Carlisle may end up with a multi-purpose health and recreation center, accessible exclusively to residents of the two towns, without doing much more than reading about it in the newspaper.
© 2003 The