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William L. Welch Community Swimming Pool
Master Site Plan - Pool Renewal Options

Letters and Email Submissions
Regarding the Community Meeting held on Tues, Sept. 25, 2007

NOTE: This page will be appended as other correspondance is received. Last Updated: 22 Jan 09


From: Jere Northridge (residency not indicated)   internjere@hotmail.com

Date Rcvd.: 9/25/07

I read the article in today’s CDT regarding the Welch Pool renewal project. While I understand that costs of concrete alone have risen sharply since Hurricane Katrina, I can’t help but think that this project is an opportunity to renew the community spirit of State College. This project could be a poster-child for volunteerism and community service in the State College area, and I hope that you could explore these possibilities. “Service” Fraternities in the downtown/State College Borough area have received, deservedly or not, a negative perception in recent media articles. Perhaps some donated labor, at a minimum for the final plantings and painting and sealing of the pool, would be both cost-efficient and community-responsible. Further time donations by Scouting groups or through the High School’s new requirements for service projects could additionally provide volunteer support. Perhaps the South Hills students or Centre County Vo-tech students could donate surveying, stake-out, and even excavation time to the project. This project, 40 years ago, would have been a rallying point within the community to do something together. Now it’s a question of balancing a checkbook. My fear is that we’ve become a “pass-the-hat” society and that we’re too willing to just kick in $400,000 dollars and see what that gets us. What about time donated by municipal engineers to do contract administration or some project oversight? What about excavation equipment lent rental-free for South Hills or Vo-Tech students to use? What about asking local engineering firms to comment on the plans and costs provided by Mr. Hunsacker? This project is next to the high school, the single most polarizing institution in the last decade of this community. I would like to see a community project, built by volunteers, built as a reminder that this community can work together. Please let me know if there’s anything I can do to help. I will be happy to offer any assistance I can related to both my engineering background and the volunteering of my time to help with any labor in the future.


From: Mark Jancin, Bayberry Drive, SC mark.jancin@veoliawater.com

Date Rcvd.: 9/25/07

I am unable to attend the public meeting this evening on the above subject. Please enter this email into the record of public comments. As a user and nearby resident of the Welsh pool, my main concern with the pending renovation is that the design does not result in new, heavier car traffic to this location. The summer is the only time of year when we local residents can more or less freely drive through this part of Westerly Parkway without being impeded by students -- I do not want new traffic congestion to result from the pool renovation. To me, smaller is better. Please keep the design firms in check, they will tend to think larger is better.


From: Mary C. (KK) Marino, S. Sparks Street, SC sualums@bcpl.net

Date Rcvd.: 9/25/07

In an editorial opinion, our Sunday newspaper asks, “Who better to decide the pool’s fate than those who regularly swim there?” I would like to answer: all of the people who regularly live in the two neighborhoods that the facility shares! Being one of them I offer this:
My name is Mary Marino, and I have a pleasant home on the Holmes-Foster Park side of South Sparks St, just up from the pool. Most people call me KK. I am very happy with the current design of Welch Pool! I think it works well and provides an overall great return on investment. I don’t mean strictly financial. I would like to see us keep our commitment to this generous memorial by maintaining it, and wish that we hadn’t wasted money delaying so long. Please note: I believe our zoning laws are intended to protect, not to dole out privilege. If we truthfully value our neighborhoods, then they must be shown respect, and this is a good place for that. We need to realize that just because a neighbor is an institution and not a residence, doesn’t mean it can overtake or bully the homes in a neighborhood it is only a part of. Before you spend money, you need to tell the neighbors just how many more customers you hope to attract and what changes that will make to the traffic, light, and noise levels. They are at a barely acceptable level now, and I don’t want to see them increased. You must consider these things before you make a decision. Let’s be satisfied with what we have that serves us well. That’s the responsible thing to do – it’s what makes for true happiness. Thank you for taking the time to listen to me.


From: Kathy Kalinosky, SC Borough  kwren@dejazzd.com

Date Rcvd.: 9/25/07

I wanted to thank you and the folks who have been so diligently working on the plans for the Welch Pool. I appreciated the opportunity to attend the meeting this evening to hear about the options from the consultants and share ideas. I thought Mr. Hunsaker did a wonderful job at presenting the info and making people feel comfortable to share their ideas and viewpoints. He was most patient. Three more comments for the record:
1.) In thinking about the 50 meter pool, which I originally thought was ridiculous, it would allow multiple activities to occur at once. One of the activities that I know CRPR offered this summer was diving. I was interested in having a couple of my kids take the class, but with 4 kids, I had to make some decisions about our time and believe it or not, driving over to the PF pool was just beyond our limits, because we live over here by Easterly Parkway Elementary school. The diving might be something that could be offered with the 50 meter pool, correct?
2.) Regarding the discussion about water depth for swim team starts and relays: I definitely would not feel safe having my child dive into 4 feet of water for a swim team start. I think the more shallow end of the lap pool would need to be at least what we have now.
3.) Snack Bar. I liked the suggestion that a charitable group could schedule to run it , especially for a dinner time. The pool facility could provide the equipment...grill or whatever and the group would provide the rest.


From: Tom Griffiths, Ferguson Township tjg4@psu.edu

Date Published: 9/28/07    Letter to the Editor - The Centre Daily Times

I fear local residents will be too closed-minded when evaluating the current proposals for renovating Welch Pool. Boring, rectangular, competitive pools, similar to those existing in the Centre Region, recover only 20 to 40 percent of operating costs through daily fees and seasonal memberships. Family aquatic centers or leisure pools, such as is proposed for the Welch Pool site, often recover 60 to 80 percent of their operating costs at the front gate. A water park is not what is being proposed. Aquatic centers featuring shallow-water, beach-like entries and lazy rivers attract a larger and more diverse population than traditional pools. Not only do leisure pools offer more fun and attract more guests, they are also safer and have more therapeutic options. Lazy rivers used by families riding the current in tubes during the day are often used by senior citizens and disabled people walking against the current in the early mornings and evenings. The region suffers from a lack of good quality aquatic facilities. Now that existing traditional swimming pools are deteriorating rapidly, with most exceeding their life expectancy, we ought to renovate them properly so that more people will use them and fewer tax dollars will be spent maintaining them. A properly designed family aquatic center, similar to Welch Pool options 4 and 5, would significantly improve the quality of life for a larger Centre Region population. Let’s not be short-sighted with this valuable project.
CDT Editor’s note: Tom Griffiths is manager of aquatic facilities at Penn State.


From:  Joseph Rogacs, SC Borough  rogacs@comcast.net Pool Renewal Advisory Committee member

Date:  9/28/07

The work of the Centre Region Parks & Recreation Authority and the consultants, Mr. Popovich and Mr. Hunsaker, is much appreciated.  After a thoughtful and thorough study of the five options presented at the Community Meeting #2 on September 25 and taking into consideration the comments of others in the community, the following are my recommendations for renewing the Welch Pool:

  • Since this is an opportunity to build a first-class facility to meet the future needs of this community, the 50 meter pool is the best choice, if it is fully utilized for lap swimming, swim meets and recreational swimming.
  • Two diving boards should be placed at one end of the 50 meter pool. 
  • In order to stay within budgetary constraints, a smaller leisure pool should be substituted for the more elaborate leisure pool shown in Option 5 plan.  The leisure pool should be attached to the 50 meter pool in order to meet the desire of parents to be able to oversee children swimming in all areas of the pool.  If possible, the leisure pool should be attached to the 50 meter pool at the center (resulting in a T shape), allowing either end of the 50 meter pool to be somewhat deeper than the center.
  • The T-shaped pool would accommodate the individuals who indicated they wished to retain this format rather than curved and circuitous edges, and it should be a cost savings over a separate leisure pool.
  • The leisure pool should have a sloped, zero grade entry.
  • To address the desire by some for participatory play features, one water slide and one small water/play feature would be appropriate. The water slide should have entry into the 50 meter pool as indicated for the pool in Option 2.  If possible, the slide entry should be on the same end of the pool as the diving boards, so that only one end of the pool would be closed for these activities.
  • Emphasis should also be directed to an improved bath house facility with working showers and a system to maintain a more sanitary floor, since this was a major concern of some individuals and is available at little additional cost.
  • Because many expressed concern that large complicated play features, sprinklers, and fountains would create accidents and injuries, features such as these should be limited.
  • The new pool should fit aesthetically with the surrounding school and neighborhood environments.  The visual impact of a number of colorful waterslides, umbrella structures and other play features is not the best choice for this renewal, for aesthetic, financial and safety reasons. 

Thank you for requesting my participation and input.  I am available for any questions.


From:  Eric Topp, Ferguson Township   xvol@comcast.net        Pool Renewal Advisory Committee member

Date:  10/1/07

The time and investment of the Centre Region Parks & Recreation Authority is appreciated but I would like to convey the following:

General Process:

1) Role of the Advisory Committee - I do not understand the role of the advisory committee with this project. I thought that we were supposed to work with the consultants and CRRA to gather/discuss the requirements of the community. To date, the work has been conducted by the consultant with limited review of the data by the committee. I imagined that the committee would operate like a CAC for the SCASD. In many cases, we are potential change management agents for this project. I have received several calls from neighbors with questions about this project since they have seen my name on notes, the web, etc. I am not able to answer many of these questions as I have not reviewed the data more than any normal citizen.

2) Input - At this time, I can only comment on the things that I have seen. Much of the detailed information has not been provided. I would like to see the following items:

a) Requirements - A documented list of the requirements and input gathered that drove the five initial options.

b) Orientation - Layout of the five options on the current property.

c) Demographics - Growth estimates for the region are from where? (the last in depth version I saw was from the SCASD done by Dr. Shelby Stewman which resulted in a prediction of no growth in school age children). At the last meeting, Sue Mascolo mentioned a number of 15K growth in the near future….what report cited these numbers and in what age categories?

d) Usage Patterns – I saw many numbers on usage, pass holders and population percentages based on distance. I did not see any numbers that told me frequency of use by distance. Recently I have heard statements that Park Forest is a neighborhood pool and Welch is a Community/Regional pool. This is not an accurate statement as Welsh is a neighborhood pool as well. I would imagine if you had a barcode system in place to track usage, you would see a pattern high usage by those close to the facility (note to future). Usage may not translate to profit but this data would tell you specific details on your customer base. I have not seen any data that shows our target market and their wants/needs (WiFi in the pool area?). In short, the usage pattern data is a bit suspect in my opinion. It does tell us some things but many have made the jump to far reaching conclusions. I also see very few cites/sources on the data!

e) Advance Warning – If we are to provide comment, we need the data in advance for review prior to the arrival of the consultant. This is just a good business procedure.

Specific Issues and Options:

1) Park Forrest Pool – I know that I was not involved in this decision nor was I part of the committee but I feel compelled to point out the obvious. The decision to build a pool that has a swim team ~120 kids with only six lanes is one that will be a negative impact for the next 30 years. I understand from the last meeting that funding was an issue but this was a penny wise but pound foolish decision.

2) Option 5 – The building of a 50 meter pool in this community is not cost justified. Personally, I would love to see one but it does not make sense as a taxpayer. Let me briefly provide my qualifications on this issue. I was a captain of the University of Tennessee Swim Team, member of the United States National Swim Team, Olympic Trails Finalist, a top 16 ranked athlete in the world, an assistance coach at SUNY Cortland and an assistant coach at Penn State. I believe that I have a good handle on this sport. I don’t understand who is going to use a 50 meter facility in this area? The closest 50 meter pools that hold major United States Swimming events are in Pittsburgh. PSU hosts a long course meet in June that is small. Next year PSU will host Sectionals and that will bring in ~900 kids during the third week of July. This was arranged with much lobbying and is a one time event. In short, I don’t see the need for a “world class facility” using a distance that is only swum from May – August for USS/international meets unless the COG is also planning on building a bubble and making a commitment to bring in major USS events (with no seating in the current plan). The issue is not the want of some for a 50 meter facility but rather the need for more lanes. This can be accomplished without building a 50 meter facility.

3) Option 4 – In my opinion, option 4 takes a leap from normal pool to the Great Wolf Lodge (http://www.greatwolf.com/). Welsh is still a neighborhood pool and this design is a bit too grand for the neighborhood. The connection of the two pools also presents a possible issue for water depth (deep water) and the ability to still use the pool if a meet is running.

4) Option 3 – This is the best option in my opinion but we will need to work with the neighborhood to ensure that it fits our demographic target (Gen X and Y) yet does not “offend” others (Swing/Baby Boomers). A big difference exists between these groups! The separation of the pools will allow for increased utilization but we will need to balance how this fits in the neighborhood. The “play” pool provides many options (children, therapy, education, etc.) but I am concerned with the “blending” into the neighborhood. We don’t need a Willy Wonka pool! It is interesting to note that this has happended before (see the other attachments) and our consultants should have touched on the change management aspect (this is the Ex-Sr. Consultant in me commenting).

5) Option 1/2 – Six lanes is “no go” on an investment of this maganitude. Are the costs based on complete replacment in Option 1 or rennovation (i.e. how much reuse or complete replacement)?

          In summary for the “Specific Issues and Options”, I recommend #3 from a 50,000 foot level. The next step would be to drill down to the 25,000 foot level and begin discussing the detailed variations with specific placement on the property.


From:  Lori Paterno, State College Borough lori.paterno@sageminder.com
Pool Renewal Advisory Committee member

Date:  10/2/07

Thank you for allowing me to be part of the advisory committee for the Welch Pool renewal.  You have asked us to comment on our personal views and our understanding of what the others in the public have stated during the hearings, etc.

PERSONAL VIEW:

My personal priority would be to see that any renovation preserves the relaxed, family environment of this neighborhood pool and keeps it in its current location - where it has beautifully served the adjacent neighborhoods for almost half a century.   Located near healthy neighborhoods with sidewalks and bike-paths, and mixed-housing areas with higher density, means that many of our kids can - and do - get to the pool independently on foot or bike.  And, they use it for healthy recreation and informal social contact.  

Some have recently defined Welch as a “regional” pool (based on a map of where people live who purchase their memberships at Welch) – but my consistent experience of Welch Pool is that most of the daily patrons live close-by, share elementary schools, and know one another.  It currently functions quite well as a true neighborhood pool.  If we change that significantly, it will be a major loss for those of us who regularly enjoy this facility.

One argument for a drastic change is that our kids “demand” more exciting recreation.  I believe that it is our responsibility to ascertain the real value of what we offer to our kids.  When I have visited pools like option #4, it is clear to me that the kids are certainly having a good time (in the same way a roller coaster is a “good time”) – but they are not interacting with each other in anything but fleeting and superficial ways – sometimes barely aware of one another as they push past others to get to the “next play feature.”  As a parent, the “excitement” of this type of water facility is exhausting and stressful – and not something I would be inclined to do on a regular basis. 

In contrast, Welch Pool is relaxing and I see the kids (and teens!) - spending whole afternoons interacting with friends and their families.  I think these face-to-face, relaxed interactions will never be outdated.  In fact, I think our kids today – being overscheduled in organized activities and being “plugged in” to impersonal devices - probably need this kind of relaxed social recreation more than ever before. 

The population increases mentioned since 1970 were primarily increased seniors and college students – the former likely to also enjoy a relaxed neighborhood pool and the latter not likely to even be around in the summer.   In terms of future growth, I think adding a modest amount of water area would be helpful.

In terms of practical matters, I do not think our climate and our population can financially support options 4 or 5.  We simply do not have the numbers and the consistently hot sunny weather that would engage the huge number of pool visits that would be needed to make these pools financially self-supporting.  So, options 4 and 5 would likely need to draw in people from outside the Centre Region in order to be fiscally sustainable.  I don’t think that this fits well with the scope and mission of the CRRA.

So, to sum up my perspective, preserving the relaxed family environment, neighborhood feel, and current location of the pool are top priorities for me; and, Options #1 and #3 would be my picks.  Option #1: If this option were to be seriously considered, I have to question why we wouldn’t simply renovate with a lower cost rather than totally “replace” the identical structure.  This option would allow us to continue to enjoy a pool that works quite well now and save our resources for the future if it becomes truly apparent that we need more aquatics facilities.  Since a “renovate” option was not given, I can only assume that it would be much less expensive than tearing down everything that is there now just to “replace” it?  But with the information you gave us, I have no way of determining that.  Option #3 is my preferred option (and my kids’ pick).   While I would like to see the leisure part altered a bit to be more usable for new swimmers to stand and practice swimming (more 3-4 foot space), some version of this would be nice and perhaps the best overall option.  I do like a zero-entry area for tots.

Option #2 doesn’t make many improvements and the water couch things seem like a waste of space/not useful.  Only having six lap lanes is not worth the bother.  Option #4 is not appealing to me at all as already described.  Option #5 is too expensive to build and operate as it is presented.  I’m not opposed to a 50-meter pool, but I wonder if it is widely needed in our community at this time.  Since we do not have the options drawn “to-scale” and they are not drafted in the current location, it is also hard to judge if the large facilities in option #5 would fit well on the Westerly Parkway site?

PUBLIC HEARINGS AND COMMENTS FROM THE COMMUNITY:

What I heard from the people who showed up to both public hearings and from many of my neighbors/regular pool users was that the majority share the view that the pool - as it now is - serves to build neighborhood connections and a relaxed family atmosphere - and that people do not want to lose this.  I did not hear anyone say that they want a full-blown water amusement park and I heard many of the current pool patrons say that this type of “mayhem” would likely turn them away from using the facility on a regular basis.  Older patrons of the pool have said they do not look forward to a hectic, “playground” facility.

I heard a small number of people state a concern for the high cost of some of the options and a suggestion that we consider the impact to local taxpayers.

Some who know I’m on this committee have shared with me that they would use the pool more often if it were cleaner (esp. the tot pool and bathrooms) and if the hours of operation were more available to those with smaller children who nap in the afternoon.

I also heard a small number of people say that they do want major increases in slides, play features, and “exciting” things to attract and engage teenagers.   I appreciate wanting to attract teens - but I’m not sure that anyone really knows that these features would actually result increased teen visits (beyond the novelty stage).  The consultant seems to think that our teens are bored / hanging out at Wal-Mart, but I think our teens are more likely to be very busy with jobs and extra-curricular / educational activities in the summer.

I also heard a small group of people say that they would like to see a 50-meter pool for flexibility, more water area for swimming, training, and more serious athletic events.  This idea has merit, but I am not certain about the practicality of it.  If we could reduce the initial and operating costs of option #5 by taking away the secondary “leisure” pool, then this could be an acceptable option.  The simplicity of a large pool would keep the relaxed environment that I think is still the prevailing theme of what I heard from the public.  The 50-meter pool would offer something complimentary to Park Forest and could allow for more flexibility in programming.  With a limited addition of some modern play features, this is a possibility for our community – but the cost and operating scope of #5, as presented, makes it an unrealistic option in terms of sustainability. 

I heard that regular users are open to a 50-meter pool if it would often, actually be used as a 50-meter pool.  If it would only accommodate a few professional athletes rarely for their training, it may be outside of the scope of the CRRA to provide for this narrow use.  And it may not be fully utilized recreationally to justify the increased cost of operating this type of facility.  I also don’t think it will fit nicely on the current site as presented – but I have no way of really knowing that from the information provided.

SUMMARY:
Overall, the current pool, as it exists today, fits in well with the stated mission/scope of the CRRA and is serving our area quite well.  We should not take for granted what we have (a very nice neighborhood pool that is accessible to so many youth) without more careful consideration of what we would be losing by making radical changes to the nature (or location) of Welch Pool.

I don’t think that local tax effort should go into supporting a large centralized aquatics park that will likely need to draw in patrons from outside the region to support it due largely to our weather and demographics.

Having better information about what an actual renovation would cost, how the various options would fit on the real site, and what the itemized costs are would be helpful.  I think the 50-meter pool has some potential; but needs to be reworked into a more realistic option for any further consideration.

My overall preference and opinion about what is a good possible solution would be a variation of option #3, on the current site, by including at least 8 lap lanes for swimmers, one or two “exciting” features for teens, a zero-entry for tots, and more space for the school-aged crowd to be able to practice swimming and play where they can stand (3-4 foot depth), etc. while still maintaining an appropriate neighborhood scale for the relaxed atmosphere that many seem to want to preserve.  I would focus less on “play features” for the tiny tots and younger kids and more on things like shade trees, functional bathhouses, seating, picnic areas, and a solid plan for maintenance and cleaning that make the overall comfort for daily use more appealing to all.

Thank you for allowing me to participate in this process. 


From: Mary Michaluk, Westerly Parkway, SC Borough mary@nvcs.org

Date: 10/3/07

My family lives right across from Welch Pool. Currently, the noise level at the pool has not been much of a problem. However, as a courtesy to the homes around the pool, a great deal of consideration should be given to how the renovations will increase the noise and the traffic. Right now, I would say the noise level at the pool is at times right on the edge of being too loud. Traffic at times is already heavy on Westerly Parkway and I have often been stuck in my driveway trying to get out or stuck on O'Bryan trying to get onto the parkway. I guess the question for Tom is:
How would he like what he is proposing across the street from his house?


CLICK HERE to review the correspondance from the Community Meeting #1 held on Tues., 24 July 07.

CLICK HERE to review the Meeting Summary from the Community Meeting #2 on Tues., 25 Sept 07.

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