Morrisville considers relocating aquatics center

aramos@newsobserver.comFebruary 12, 2013 

Morrisville leaders are thinking of moving the Morrisville Aquatics and Fitness Center to what they hope will become downtown.

ALIANA RAMOS - ARAMOS@NEWSOBSERVER.COM

— The 25-year-old Morrisville Aquatics and Fitness Center has outgrown its location on Morrisville Parkway.

Rather than spend voter-approved bond money to upgrade the center, Morrisville’s elected leaders are considering building a new state-of-the-art recreation facility in what they hope will become a downtown center.

The idea is that the aquatics center could bring more people to a future downtown off Jeremiah Street and Town Hall Drive.

“In the downtown center, it would be more centrally located. A lot more people could use it,” Mayor Jackie Holcombe said. “One of the things we envision for the town center is this central gathering place and this place of community.”

Consultants have told town leaders that “destinations” like town-owned facilities will be a must-have to make the downtown successful. The Town Council originally considered building a cultural arts center, and then shifted talks to a possible indoor gymnasium and senior center.

But if the aquatics center moves downtown, Holcombe said, the current facility could become a senior center.

Currently, senior programs take place at the Cedar Fork Community Center.

“Our senior population is growing,” Holcombe said. “People who are senior citizens are moving here because they see the value of our central location, including a central location to people’s children and grandchildren.”

In November, voters approved $5.7 million in parks bonds to upgrade the aquatics center and Morrisville Community Park. If the town decides to move the aquatics center downtown, Holcombe said, some of that money could be used for construction costs.

Holcombe said even if bond money is used to build a new aquatics center, it won’t go toward the development of retail and office space downtown.

The 10,000-square-foot Morrisville Aquatics and Fitness Center was built in 1988, when Morrisville had a population of about 1,000 people. Since then, the town hasn’t made any major renovations or expansions to the facility.

With the town’s population now about 20,000, town leaders are weighing their options.

“This is still in the early days, what you would call back-of-the envelope discussions,” Holcombe said. “We will talk about it and see if there is community interest.”

Holcombe suggested relocating the aquatics center a few weeks ago, and the idea has gained support from the Town Council.

“The current site is restricted,” said Councilman Steve Diehl. “Moving it allows us greater latitude, and while it’s being constructed we don’t have to close the other one.”

Councilman Mark Stohlman said moving the center might make the best use of the town’s assets.

“It’s worth talking about,” Stohlman said. “Instead of having duplicate facilities maybe a mile a part, maybe they can be consolidated.”

Ramos: 919-460-2609

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