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Hall's future life aquatic coming via Frances Meadows Center

Part of complex could open July 28

POSTED: May 17, 2008 5:00 a.m.
TOM REED/The Times

Will Farmer of Scroggs and Grizzel Contracting cuts a piece for the roof of a pump building at the construction site of the Frances Meadows Center.

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It won’t be long before the Frances Meadows Center will be all wet.

After years of planning, collaboration and construction, the mega-aquatics center is only a couple of months away from completion.

And 11 months to the day from the beginning of construction, "We’re in the beginning of the end," said Paul Krippner, the project manager for the Frances Meadows Center

Right now, the two winding slides standing outside the center would deposit a fun-seeker in about an inch of water left from the weekend’s rains. But Gainesville parks Director Melvin Cooper said the $16 million complex of pools and meeting rooms in east Gainesville will make a splash as early as July 28.

The slides stand over what will soon be 34,000 square feet of outdoor swimming area, complete with a lazy river, spray fountains and zero-depth entry. Once underground plumbing is installed to support the outdoor "splash zone," the contractors, Scroggs and Grizzel, can bring in an asphalt company to pour the concrete walkways around the pools.

Already, there are 15 to 20 swim meets planned for the center’s 10-lane indoor competitive pool, which meets both U.S. Aquatics standards and international standards. For those who want to watch those swim meets, there is a 300-seat spectator area at the foot of the competition pool.

"You could practice for the Olympics (in this pool)," Krippner said.

Another four-lane indoor pool sits parallel to the competition pool. This smaller swimming area will serve as a warm-up pool for swim meets and a place for water aerobics. The pool has a wheelchair ramp and will soon have an elevator, and will also be used for therapy sessions, said Cooper.

But the Frances Meadows Center will not be completely under water come August. The center has a 2,000-square-foot fitness area, which Cooper says is part of the Parks and Recreation Department’s health and fitness initiative. Initially, the room will serve as a space for aerobics classes to "provide that exercise and fitness component" of the Frances Meadows Center.

The Frances Meadows Center also has a large meeting area, or "multipurpose" area, that will be available for rentals and for use with day camp programs.

Once construction on the new Gainesville Middle School is complete in 2009, students will be able to walk a short path to the center for swimming classes or after-school leisure. The center is the result of a partnership with the city school system; the two agencies jointly purchased the 53 acres on which the school and the aquatics center are located. The parks department and the middle school will be able to share facilities only a few feet away.

"This time next month, (the Frances Meadows Center) will be virtually complete," Krippner said.


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