Work could begin this spring on aquatic center at O’Bannon Woods
If everything progresses as planned, ground could be broken as early as June for a $3.1 million aquatic center with an outdoor swimming pool at O’Bannon Woods State Park in the Harrison-Crawford State Forest.
Property manager Bob Sawtelle unveiled the project Monday afternoon to the Harrison County Convention and Visitors Bureau Board of Directors.
‘It’s kind of like our coming-out party,’ said Sawtelle.
The Indiana Dept. of Natural Resources has earmarked $1.5 million for the project, and $900,000 has been acquired by Ninth District Congressman Mike Sodrel in conservation funds, so all that’s left to raise is $766,000, Sawtelle said. ‘We will start knocking on doors as rapidly as we can,’ said Sawtelle, who just took over as manager a week earlier.
‘That’s what I am doing here; knocking on your door.’
He is seeking a $50,000 contribution from the CVB, which could be used as seed money to obtain grants from various foundations, Sawtelle said.
The project has been under discussion by the CVB and the Indiana Dept. of Revenue for nearly three years; included in the mix has been a lodge in addition to an outdoor water feature, said Jim Epperson, director of the CVB.
‘That idea is still alive,’ Epperson said.
But with much of the funding in place for the aquatic center, that will move forward before the inn.
The Estopinal Group, an engineering, architectural firm based in Louisville, has developed two possibilities for the aquatic center. One would involve rehabilitating the building and pool which was closed due to maintenance problems some years ago and the other calls for those facilities to be demolished and another, expanded one constructed.
Revamping the existing facility would cost $2.6 million.
But the CVB and the DNR believe that would be a bad investment. ‘I don’t want to throw good money after bad,’ Sawtelle said. ‘The DNR is committed to Option 2 (the new facility).’
The state will own the facility and cover the operating and maintenance costs. This is possible now because the recreation area has been named a ‘park,’ which has funds available for people-oriented projects whereas a forestry deals mostly with property management, Sawtelle said.
‘We feel outdoor recreation is important,’ said Michael Wiseman, CVB board chair, adding that other groups will likely contribute to the project.
Rather than commit to an amount Monday, Wiseman said board members will first gauge community support.
‘Let us work the circuit and see how it goes,’ he said. ‘I think it’s fair to say we’re very supportive of the project.’
In fact, he added: ‘I’m tickled; this is a great way to show Indianapolis how we’re investing our riverboat money.’
(The CVB receives tourism dollars from the state’s share of Caesars’ taxes.)
The Estopinal Group’s plans for a new facility include a 5,142-square-foot pool; 2,478-square-foot ‘zero-depth pool’ for children and 1,704-square-foot spray pad; a 19,419-square-foot concrete deck, a 940-square-foot bath house lobby and a 3,834-square-foot bath house, plus other amenities such as paving, lighting, landscaping and fencing.
The facility would require from 20 to 25 employees.