Frequently asked questions about the proposed Mt. Pleasant aquatic center: Answered

It has been nearly a decade since the Mt. Pleasant area has had a competitive-sized swimming pool that was open for public use. That may soon change, pending the results of a February 27 millage proposal. The millage, if passed, would provide the financial backing for a new community aquatics center, which would be located on a currently vacant property just north of the Mt. Pleasant High School soccer fields. 

The proposed aquatic center is the result of years of work by the Mid-Michigan Aquatics Recreational Authority (MMARA). 

The MMARA board consists of representatives from Mt. Pleasant, Union Township, and Mt. Pleasant Public Schools. These board members have spent nearly four years planning the implementation of an aquatics center that would be comprehensive in nature, with its components offering benefits and resources for all user groups. 

Features of the Aquatic Center

Most prominently, the aquatic center would feature a 25-yard, eight lane swimming pool with two diving boards—which is of the required dimensions and specifications to allow swim and dive teams in the area to conduct practices and host competitions. 

In conjunction with this pool, there will be stadium seating for the associated events, with a maximum capacity of around 900 spectators. 

In addition to providing a means for practices and competition, the competitive-sized pool will be open to the community for lap swimming and recreational swimming, including scuba, kayaking, and paddleboarding opportunities. 

There will also be a secondary pool included in the aquatics center. This smaller pool will have warmer water temperatures and will be dedicated to teaching, therapy, and rehab. To support these activities, the teaching/therapy pool will have swimming and walking lanes, with an additional channel that provides water resistance. To ensure equal access for all user groups, this pool will generally be open to the public even when the competitive-sized pool is being used for practice or competition. 

Both the teaching/therapy pool and the competitive-sized pool will have features that facilitate access for all, including stairs, ramps, lifts, and submerged bench seating in parts of the former. 

Programs of the Aquatic Center

The aquatic center plans to have a diverse array of programs to highlight and make use of its features. After gathering input from more than 30 user groups, these programs were specifically designed to support all community members. 

Among the currently planned programs are adult and senior-specific fitness programs, which includes water aerobics and water-walking. 

For school-aged users, there is the ability to have a home venue for local swim and dive teams as previously mentioned, as well as the opportunity for high school physical education classes to utilize the pool. 

Keeping with the theme of education, community members can receive swim lessons as well as become lifeguard and first-aid certified at the aquatic center. 

Additionally, local healthcare providers will partner with the aquatics center to provide therapy and rehab services to the community. 

Financial Details of the Aquatic Center

The initial funding for the aquatics center will come from a bond proposal that is on the ballot for the 27th of February. If approved, this bond would cover the entire cost of construction for the $23.5 million facility, at an average cost of $75 per year for property owners in the affected area. The member groups who are set to vote on the bond are property owners in Mt. Pleasant, Union Township, and the Mt. Pleasant school district. It must pass in all three areas to be officially approved. 

After construction costs, the day-to-day operations of the aquatics center will be funded by membership fees and program revenue, at no additional costs to taxpayers. 

Estimated prices for the membership fees are $7 for an adult drop-in pass, with seniors and youth being charged only $5. Annual memberships can be purchased by an adult for $495, or $350 for seniors and youth. An annual family pass may also be purchased for $880. 

Non-residents of the taxpaying areas will be subject to fee increases. These fees, in conjunction with program revenue, will fund not only the daily operations of the aquatics center, but will also contribute to a maintenance reserve. 

Speaking on the maintenance reserve, MMARA treasurer, Lisa Diaz Sytsema, says, “Each year, a designated amount of revenue will be saved to ensure that by year 20, when we anticipate some larger maintenance expenses, such as re-tiling the teaching/therapy pool, we will have $3 million available to ensure the facility is maintained.” 

This is a considerable amount of capital to manage, but Diaz Sytsema is confident in the administrative abilities of the MMARA board. 

“The MMARA board will be responsible for the governance and oversight of the Aquatic Center during construction and operation,” she says. “To ensure fiscal accountability, MMARA will be required to conduct an independent audit annually, which will be published on the website. Taxpayers will know how every penny is being spent.”

Community Impact of the Aquatic Center

The aquatics center is expected to provide a return on community members’ investments, in both the economic and social realms. 

Economically, the aquatics center will provide dozens of jobs for the community and is projected to bring area businesses $1.4 million in revenue each year as a result of its associated events and competitions. The economic revenue associated with the aquatic center would fill a currently empty niche, acting as a novel, yet significant, catalyst for the economic growth of the Mt. Pleasant area. 

Similarly important are the social benefits of the aquatic center. 

“The aquatic center will serve all generations within our community,” says Diaz Sytsema. “From babies to seniors, the aquatic center will have something for everyone and will serve our community well for decades to come.” 

The aquatic center was truly developed with the best interests of every last community member in mind, which Diaz Sytsema points out, saying, “This proposal has received broad support from all corners of our community, because the need is great, the demand is high, and it will enhance the physical, mental, and financial health of our community.”
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Read more articles by Owen Howard.

Owen Howard is an Isabella County native with a deep appreciation for all it has to offer, in both people and places. He currently works as a biologist in the environmental department of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe. He is an alumni of Central Michigan University, having received both a bachelor's and a master's degree. In his free time, Owen could be described as 'chronically outdoors.' Owen has a passion for telling stories and for listening to other people tell theirs. He loves getting the chance to allow people to share their passions and stories with a larger audience.