Published September 23, 2012 in The Norman Transcript
Community aquatic complex needed
NORMAN — Editor, The Transcript:
You recently characterized our group, the Pisces Project, as “patiently pushing a new community aquatic complex.” We welcome your observations on Sept. 9 that it’s time to think about quality of life projects for Norman and how to fund them.
It is no longer enough to rely just on the University of Oklahoma to attract visitors and jobs to Norman. And as you point out, the Oklahoma City MAPS program, with its public investment in entertainment and education, has been phenomenally successful in drawing jobs, visitors and — most importantly — private investment to Oklahoma City.
Norman is no longer a small, sleepy college town. It is one of the largest cities in the state and the region, and it’s falling behind. In a recent survey by Money magazine, both Edmond and Moore were ranked higher than Norman as desirable places in the nation in which to live.
While the Norman School Board and city council have been telling us for seven years that the money is not there to build or operate a year-round swim facility, Edmond, Stillwater and Ponca City have moved forward to raise the capital and build their own. The aging Westwood Pool consistently shows a profit. That profit was almost 18 percent greater than its operating expenses in 2011.
The benefits of having Westwood pool available for nine weeks of the year is much more than a $36,399 boost to the city’s general fund. Seven hundred and forty-two children learned to swim in 2011. Day care facilities brought children to the pool in the afternoons. Local athletes had a pool for their workouts.
Groups rented the pool for parties as the Pisces Project just did — and the annual Pooch Pool Party was well attended. With an attendance of 28,053 swimmers, hundreds of kids and adults enjoyed a refreshing slide into water on a hot day.
If a minor investment in a nine-week pool can yield such benefits, imagine what Norman could do if it offered its citizens pools available year-round for recreation, aerobics, instruction and fitness.
In the Sept. 11th Norman Transcript, Gov. Mary Fallin discussed at length the problem of childhood obesity and the need for active lifestyles. For those with diabetes and asthma, swimming is a preferred activity.
According to the CDC, swimming provides great benefits for mental health and autism patients. The Alzheimer’s Association recommends 20 minutes of exercise per day.
Imagine the impression that a new swim center and water park would make to visitors and prospective businesses about the quality of life in Norman. Imagine the economic benefit to Norman of hosting state and sectional swim meets. And imagine how nice it would be for Money magazine and others to recognize what a truly great place Norman is.
DIANE MOERSHEL, NANCY YOCH, EDDIE BARON, DALLAS SCHREMS, HEATHER PERRY, KENT NICHOLSON