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Lake Wylie water park plan hinges on community giving

Backers of a water park plan in Lake Wylie are looking for generous spirits, quickly.

The Upper Palmetto YMCA needs to raise $1.7 million to add an outdoor water park to the planned aquatic center, one of five voter-approved construction projects in the Clover School District bond referendum, that will go on school land near Crowders Creek Elementary School. The YMCA and Clover School District will share the facility scheduled to open in spring 2016.

The district needs to know by mid-January if the community can raise the additional $1.7 million. Construction bids are expected to go out in February, with school board’s final plan in early March.

“It’s not that we have to have the money in hand,” said Elizabeth Hartley of Lake Wylie and YMCA board member. “We have to have good faith promises.”

But the deadline is firm because the decision to add the water park has to be made now.

“It has to be done at the time of construction,” Hartley said. “They can’t come back and do this later.”

Mychal Frost, Clover School District spokesman, said the aquatic center approved in the March bond will have two indoor pools, racquetball courts, gymnasium, weight room, aerobics room and locker rooms. That, according to bond information on the district website, will cost $11.5 million of the $14 million approved.

“That’s the part that definitely will happen,” he said.

Pending school board approval, an addition of a second floor with walking track and classroom space for use by the YMCA and school district would cost $1.5 million. Another possibility is the addition of 50-meter outdoor pool at $1.8 million.

Frost said the $1.7 million outdoor water park was “never a guarantee.”

“The school board has some reservations on that piece, because there’s not an educational benefit,” Frost said.

According to district bond information online, the water park would be added “if funds are available after all other projects are complete.”

“It’s been presented this way the entire time,” Frost said.

Initial drawings of the aquatic center showed an outdoor water park, which the district and YMCA say would help make the facility profitable sooner. Later renderings brought in the 50-meter outdoor pool and a smaller water park, if funded. Hartley said the 50-meter pool could impact not only YMCA finances, but community coffers.

“With that you’re able to host larger swim meets,” she said. “Those meets bring in hundreds of people who stay for four days.”

The school board is expected to hold a special meeting by the end of the year to finalize budgets for the new elementary and middle school projects, also included in the $67 million bond. Those project costs could determine what features are part of the aquatic center.

Hartley said she understands the district’s position on the water park, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t important.

“We still need something for the little families,” Hartley said. “We still need a place for young kids to get acclimated to the water.”

The committee looking into water park funding is talking to companies and individuals who could help. Naming rights to certain features are an option. The committee also will talk to developers, particularly residential ones, “who might see this as a selling point,” Hartley said.

YMCA and school district leaders will meet this week to further hash out what would be needed for the water park. Proponents are hopeful they’ll be able to garner the cash commitment.

“Then we’ll have a facility that really will serve everybody, of all ages, for years to come,” Hartley said.