Palm Coast to seek more data on future aquatic center options

The current Aquatics Center at Belle Terre Park isn't meeting the community's needs, city staff told the City Council at an April 12 workshop.

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Palm Coast's Belle Terre Park, which includes the city's Aquatics Center and Frieda Zamba pool, needs a "total rebuild" according to city staff presentation, and is more suitable as a neighborhood park than an aquatic center.

"I think we all see a finish line here. We have to better define it, describe it, and understand ... the other funding sources that are available, other than our ad valorem tax base."


— DAVID ALFIN, Palm Coast mayor

Meanwhile, swim team leaders and members have been pressing the city to build a new aquatic center, and city staff members believe the city should conduct a citywide site analysis to find the best location for it, then create a master plan for a new center that meets community needs, potentially involving a partnership with another organization. 

City Council members at a council workshop on April 12 weren't ready to make a decision, saying they'd like more data. But they agreed that, at minimum, the current Aquatics Center likely needs work, and the city will need a true aquatic center at some point — though maybe not yet.

"As we are growing, I don't think there's a doubt in any single council member's mind that a full-blown, full-fledged aquatic facility will be in our future at some distant date," Mayor David Alfin said after a city staff presentation about Belle Terre Park. "I'm thinking that we should consider the presentation we heard today and what needs to be done, at a minimal cost, as a transitional bridge to that future aquatic center."

He added, "I think we all see a finish line here. We have to better define it, describe it, and understand ... what are the other funding sources that are available, other than our ad valorem tax base."

The city should also look into "benefactors, stakeholders and other entities to help us achieve this," he added.

"I know they're out there, and I know we can find them and I know the money's out there," Alfin said.

As things are, the Belle Terre Park serves largely as a neighborhood park, said James Hirst, Palm Coast's outdoor recreation manager: It's accessed from a neighborhood road and has limited parking, and two school bus routes run right through the entry area.

The city hired a consultant, OLC Designs, to evaluate the condition of the park's amenities.

The pool, 38 years old, has problems: The shell has cracks in its finishing, as does the coping; the deck is a patchwork of different types of concrete, and the pool filter backwash isn't connected to a storm drain, so it floods the nearby playground once or twice each week.

Its design doesn't work for sanctioned lap swimming.

Multiple park buildings, including the administrative building and the locker room building, are also in disrepair, while the tennis courts, built before 2007, have deteriorated to the point that city staff believe they should be replaced, according to the staff presentation. The racquetball courts have many of the same problems, and should be "demolished and replaced with an amenity with greater use," according to the presentation.

The playground, built in 2018, is in good condition — although it would benefit from easier access and a fix that would prevent it from being flooded by the pool backwash, Hirst said.

Buddy Taylor Middle School's buses go through the pool's parking lot on school days from 7 a.m. to 7:30 a.m., and again from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m., and Wadsworth Elementary's traverse the parking lot from 8:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. and again from 3:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.

City Councilman Eddie Branquinho was concerned about the looming potential expense associated with the park.

"I'm afraid of asking how many millions we're going to have to spend on this," he said. 

Councilman Ed Danko said he'd like to have a walkthrough at the facility with city staff before making a decision, and councilman John Fanelli said he'd like to see usage reports to get a better idea of how many people are visiting the park.

Councilman Nick Klufas noted that the Aquatics Center, though not ideal, isn't dangerous to operate.

"It's just not a modern design," Klufas said. But, he added, "We want to have a facility that is top-notch and can satisfy the needs of the [Flagler] Fluid swim team or anyone else who wants to participate in aquatic sports around Palm Coast." 









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