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Calvert to Get Indoor Pool After Long Wait

Elaine Ryan, president of the College of Southern Maryland, says the college will pay the pool's operating expenses.
Elaine Ryan, president of the College of Southern Maryland, says the college will pay the pool's operating expenses.

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By Amit R. Paley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 5, 2005

Calvert County will partner with the College of Southern Maryland to build the county's first indoor aquatic center, the Calvert commissioners announced this week.

The agreement to build the $9.1 million facility at the college's new Prince Frederick campus ends a decade-long quest to bring an indoor swimming pool to Calvert. St. Mary's and Charles counties have indoor aquatic centers.

Elaine Ryan, the college's president, said she expects construction to begin in July 2006 and finish by spring 2007. She said the county will fund the construction costs, and the college will pay the operating expenses.

"I see it as a win-win for you and win-win for the county as a whole," Commissioner Gerald W. Clark (R-Lusby) told Ryan and other college officials during a meeting Tuesday.

The college has 30 years of experience in operating pools, including an aquatic center at its La Plata campus, Ryan said. That facility is open 14 to 16 hours a day and offers numerous programs: therapeutic sessions for seniors, classes for toddlers, Red Cross programs, high school swimming team practices and dive and rescue training opportunities, she said.

The college plans to build an aquatic facility at its Leonardtown campus. Ryan said the same architect will design both centers.

Commissioner Susan Shaw (R-Huntingtown) said Calvert's ability to use the same architect is one of "the reasons we're getting the good deal on the price." Earlier cost estimates for an indoor pool had reached $12 million.

The commissioners seemed relieved that the tortured effort to bring an indoor pool to the county -- including a collapsed deal with the YMCA -- appeared to be coming to a close.

"We've been beating this pool horse to death for 10 years," said Commissioner Linda L. Kelley (R-At Large).

The 17,355-square-foot facility is planned to include two swimming pools, a fitness center filled with workout equipment, office space and classrooms. It would be owned by the College of Southern Maryland.

In the past, the aquatic center at the La Plata campus collected enough fees from users to cover its expenses. But, Ryan said, recent increases in energy costs have changed the financial equilibrium.

"We can no longer say this is a break-even operation," she said.

At their meeting Tuesday, the commissioners allocated $477,000 in the next fiscal year to design the facility, which the college is formally calling a wellness center. The commissioners also allocated $367,500 to design and build the center's parking lot.

Ryan said she hopes the design will be completed by April.

The college plans to convene an advisory committee composed of senior citizens, parents of school-age children, health care representatives, public school officials and others to make recommendations on the pool's design.

But Clark said it is necessary to remember that there are financial constraints.

"I expect us to have a first-class facility," he said, but he added that it can't "be all things to all people."


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