Current Cookeville City Council members say an aquatics facility is not a high priority at this point in time.
Council Member Eric Walker was a member of the previous council that had made strides toward making the facility a reality. He said with a $30 million price tag and continued rising construction costs, it might be more prudent to focus on city needs such as infrastructure.
“Our infrastructure improvements certainly take priority when it comes to budgeting for the city,” Walker said. “With all of our growth that we’ve seen recently, that’s more people living in our city that’s more traffic in our city, and I hope we can focus on that in the upcoming budget year.”
Walker said he would like to see an opportunity for kids to have summer fun. He said a full-fledged aquatics facility might be more of a long-term goal.
New Council Member Chad Gilbert said while quality of life opportunities are important to the council, he would like to see more of a financial investment in city fundamentals at this time.
“When you have economic uncertainty and inflation and costs that were contemplated on the pool in previous councils,” Gilbert said. “We’re seeing things that are multiples of what was being decided on 24 months ago ad this item’s no different. Well so are street projects, so are sewer projects and those things.”
New Council Member Ali Bagci said he is not opposed to an aquatics facility. He said he would like to explore a smaller-scale project that has more recreation activities than just an aquatics facility such as a sportsplex.
“Not everyone in the community is going to go to a waterpark, but if you can incorporate and diversify your offerings at a facility, I think that would be a better option,” Bagci said.
Bagci said he had looked into a similar sportsplex in Alabama that could be used as a model. He said the sportsplex is located in a community comparable to Cookeville, and it brings in a revenue of some $1 million annually.
Vice Mayor Luke Eldridge said for right now, he also believes we need to focus on infrastructure. He said in addition, he would like to explore the avenue of a public/private partnership so the city would not run the facility.
“For us, as the city to take on all of that it’s just not the season for us to do all of that,” Eldridge said. “(…) I know everyone wants it and yeah I would love to have it, but I think right now we need to be a little wiser and smarter and focus on getting some other things up to par.”