Oxford Aquatic Center Set to Open Summer 2019

The Oxford pool reflects a cloudy sky on Aug. 31, three days before it will close forever. <em>Photo by Alex MacGregor.</em>

The Oxford pool reflects a cloudy sky on Aug. 31, three days before it will close forever. Photo by Alex MacGregor.

By Julia Arwine

After 45 years of cooling off the community of Oxford during the hot summers, the Oxford pool shuts down for good this Labor Day. The city has broken ground on a new aquatic center, to be opened for the 2019 season.

The old pool has been facing major maintenance issues for years, Parks and Recreation Director Casey Wooddell said. The problems include a constant leak that wasted thousands of gallons of water annually. Plans for the new pool began in 2006 but stalled during the economic recession of 2008. Ten years later, the new pool is becoming a reality.

“The city finally decided it was time to move forward with this project,” Wooddell said.

The new aquatic center will be located in Oxford Community Park at 6801 Fairfield Road, about a mile from the old pool at 6025 Fairfield Road. A study conducted by the city in 2006 determined this to be the best spot to accommodate the largest number of people.

Still, the more isolated location has raised concern among some residents. The move makes the walk to the pool much longer for those who live close to the current pool, and therefore less accessible. Wooddell said, however, that once the Oxford Trails system of paved paths around the city is complete, there will be easier and more direct pedestrian access to the new pool. The Oxford Trails project is scheduled to take up to five years to complete.

New Structures

The land on which the old pool is located, leased by the city, will be returned to Talawanda Recreation, Inc. (TRI), a nonprofit organization involved with city recreation. TRI owns the TRI Community Center next to the old pool along with the tennis courts, playing fields and skate park on 15 surrounding acres. TRI Vice President Doug Curry said the city has had a long-term lease for a dollar per year for the piece of land the pool occupies. Under this agreement, the city will fill in the empty pool and return the land to its natural state.

“[TRI] has visions of future expansion of gymnasium space at the TRI Community Center, a very high demand need in Oxford, with the location over the current pool being the most desirable location for this expansion,” said a statement on the Oxford Parks & Recreation Department’s website.

Curry confirmed this but said that TRI has no specific plans for such a project right now.

The desire to keep this option open was a factor in the decision to build the aquatic center at a different site. TRI was not involved in the management of the old pool, and will not be involved in the construction or management of the new aquatics center, Curry said. Moving the pool will not affect any other TRI facilities or programs.

The new pool will be bigger, with a separate eight-lane competition pool. There will also be slides, a lazy river, a zero-depth entry and a large play structure. The aquatic center will not affect the location of the soccer and baseball fields already situated in the park, and users of the fields will have access to the center’s shade shelters. Construction costs are estimated at $4.2 million, to be paid through bond anticipation notes issued by the city.

Environmentally Friendly Features

The aquatic center is designed with environmental friendliness in mind. The city environmental commission met with Wooddell to talk about possible sustainability features.

Maddie Maurer, vice chair of the environmental commission, suggested that solar panels, LED lights and bike racks could make the pool more environmentally friendly.

“I just hope they implement some features that the city of Oxford can be proud of,” she said.

The pool will indeed be equipped with LED lights, and the parking lots will have bike racks — both of these features are included in the construction contract. Solar panels are unable to return the investment for a facility only used three months of the year, and will not be used, Wooddell said. However, fuel efficiency in ventilation and maintenance is accounted for in the design.

“[Artificial] turf is being considered over natural grass to reduce maintenance costs and pollution from machinery,” Wooddell said. “Variable frequency drive pumps are being utilized to save energy, and most of the facility is being ventilated and temperature-regulated with exhaust fans rather than HVAC systems.”

Choosing a Name

At its June 5 meeting, the city council formed a naming committee to give the aquatic center a unique name. The committee is in charge of selecting a name. The city hopes to bring in visitors from surrounding towns to the aquatic center, making it a recreational center for the area beyond Oxford.

The city has put out a survey for community suggestions and feedback for the naming of the aquatic center, which will be open until Sept. 16.

“When we look at places that have names like The Great Wolf Lodge or Splash Zone… they’re more enticing,” Wooddell said. “We’re looking at the possibility of creating a destination name that people will know and remember and will be worth driving to.”

Anyone can pay to visit the aquatic center, although there will be discounted rates for Oxford residents as opposed to non-residents. Like the old pool, it will also be available to be rented out for private events. However, prices for both admission and renting will be more expensive than at the old pool, Wooddell said, where admission is $4.50 for adults and $3.50 for children and seniors, and reservations costs $50 an hour. These admission fees will offset the costs of maintaining and running the facility. As of late summer, Wooddell was in the process of determining those prices; however, they will not be finalized until City Council votes on and approves them in November.