Iowa City Parks and Rec is evaluating the possibility of closing a swimming pool and expanding another

The Robert A. Lee Recreation Center on Friday, May 20, 2022 in Iowa City, Iowa. – Adria Charpentier/Petit Village

The 58-year-old pool at the Robert A. Lee Recreation Center may be permanently closed as part of the master plan for facilities and recreation programs.

The Iowa City Department of Parks and Recreation has been working on the master plan for a year and has held events and surveys to gather public feedback. The ministry will present its recommendations at two open houses on Monday, May 23.

“These are not final plans. This is a draft because we want people‘s feedback, and we know we’re going to have positives and negatives. We want it all,” Parks and Recreation Director Juli Johnson said.

The first open house will be at the Mercer Park Aquatic Center in the P&G Room from 2-3:30 p.m.; the second will be at Robert A. Lee from 7:15 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. In addition to facility recommendations, staff will also share initial redesigns for the City Park Pool and Mercer Park Aquatic Center.

The 72-year-old municipal park pool is leaking water and it’s “impossible” to continue operating in its current condition, Johnson said. They present a plan that will retain the atmosphere and character of the pool, while adding new amenities like shallow and shallow water areas for families.

“We got all kinds of comments, from water park full to ‘Don’t touch it. Leave it as is. And we kind of rest in the middle because that’s where most of the commentary kind of ended,” she said.

But the Robert A. Lee Pool has reached the end of its lifespan. With repair costs high, the department recommends closing the pool and instead using those funds to expand the Mercer Park Aquatic Center.

“We were a bit surprised by the number of repairs that will be needed over the next two years to keep it running. So one of the recommendations in this plan is that we stop using Robert A. Lee and add Mercer,” she said. “Those are huge questions for the audience that we’d really like them to see and say, ‘That makes sense’ or ‘That doesn’t make sense’.”

Closing the Robert A. Lee Pool and expanding Mercer would help reduce the city’s carbon footprint and help staff pools with fewer lifeguards, who have been hard to find, she said. Proposed renderings for Mercer would add a 3-5 foot deep hot water pool for aqua fitness classes, senior workouts and swimming lessons.

“We have a very strong goal that every child in Iowa City learns to swim. So that helps us do that and leaves the rest of the pool kind of the way it is,” Johnson said.

The department could also add a third gymnasium in Mercer, which would have an indoor walking track around the gymnasium space.

Johnson doesn’t know what could replace the Robert. A Lee Pool, if the city and community go ahead with its closure. The recreation center previously housed a shooting and archery range.

“We appreciate the number of comments we have received to date. People have shown great interest in our recreation services and we appreciate that very much,” she said.

A snow plow at the Public Works building on Friday, May 20, 2022. — Adria Carpenter/Little Village

There will also be a Public Works Open House tomorrow from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The event will include indoor roller skating, an outdoor screening of the film field of dreams, live music, food trucks, a quilt show hosted by the Old Capitol Quilters Guild, and tours of public works facilities. The city will have kiosks from different departments, and kids can sit in the driver’s seat of snowplows, leaf removal trucks and other large equipment.

“It was fun watching the guys clean them up,” Johnson said. “[Their trucks] are like their babies, and they are really proud of what is happening.

The quilt show will feature 350 unique quilts, a raffle and quiet action. Last year, the Quilt Guild donated 72 quilts to Veterans Administration Hospital, 67 quilts to 4 C’s Child Care Center, 40 quilts to the Domestic Violence Intervention Program, 28 quilts to House into Homes, 15 quilts at University of Iowa hospitals and clinics. and seven quilts at Shelter House.

An Old Capitol quilt, made by Director of Parks and Recreation Juli Johnson, at the Public Works Building Friday, May 20, 2022. – Adria Carpenter/Little Village

Below you will find the complete program of music and entertainment.

10-10:15 a.m.: Sparkles (City High’s inclusive cheerleading team)

10:15 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.: Pomtastiks (members of the Senior Center present choreographed dance moves to classic hits)

11am-11:30am: Family Folk Machine (Intergenerational local choir playing a wide range of songs and instruments)

11:45am-12:30pm: Duke Other (Clever music for all ages, Duke Other’s music is folksy and fun for everyone)

1-1:30 p.m.: Dream Divas (local dance and singing troupe that is a staple at local parades and events)

1:45-2:15 p.m.: Chickadees (Iowa music duo with a fun, folksy pop sound)

2:30-3pm: SloMoBop (Local jazz band playing some of the greatest tunes of the genre)

3:15-4 p.m.: Keith West (magician from Iowa who has performed nationwide.)

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