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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Schenectady to Construct New Aquatic Center in Capital Region

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SCHENECTADY — After years ⁣of anticipation, the much-discussed aquatic ‍center is‌ finally ​making its‌ return to ⁣the Electric City. The project​ is‌ set to ‌break ground next year, marking the end​ of a decade-long search for a suitable location.

The decision was ​made possible after Schenectady‌ County lawmakers approved a partnership with ⁢the Adirondack Aquatic ‍Center and SUNY Schenectady on Tuesday. The facility‌ will be built⁢ on a county-owned plot of ⁣land between State Street and Erie Boulevard, conveniently located ⁤near the ​community ⁤college campus.

As per ⁣the agreement, all three parties will contribute financially to the project. The State University of New York will cover‌ half of the estimated $41.7 million cost for⁢ the facility, which will feature an ⁢NCAA-compliant eight-lane pool and diving ‌well, an instruction‌ pool, a ⁤therapy pool, and seating for at least 1,200 spectators.

The ⁢project will also include seating ‍for up to‍ 600 athletes, locker rooms, restrooms and showers, multi-purpose instructional areas, and​ concession space.

The Adirondack⁢ Aquatic ⁢Center⁣ will contribute 90% of the $21.5 million it has raised ‌since its ⁤inception over a decade‍ ago. This includes‌ $5 million from the federal government, $5.1 million from the state, and $6.4 million in private donations.

The remaining 10% of funds raised ​by the aquatic center will be allocated to‍ a start-up operational fund of up to⁤ $2 million. The Adirondack Aquatic Center​ will also continue to fundraise for the project, which is expected‍ to break ground next year ⁢and open its⁤ doors ​in 2027.

Schenectady County‌ will contribute $5 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding towards the ⁢project and will cover any of ⁢the remaining 50% balance not covered‌ by SUNY or the‌ aquatic⁣ center​ funding, according to Christopher ‌Gardner, ⁣the county attorney.

The final cost of the project ‍is yet to be determined. The $41.7 million estimate was completed late last year when the project was ‌expected‍ to ⁤open at the ViaPort shopping mall in Rotterdam. This estimate does not include the cost ⁢of constructing a parking deck that will accommodate around 300 parking spots, Gardner⁣ said.

The county is also seeking additional‌ state funding through the NY SWIMS program, a $150 million grant initiative included in this year’s state budget that aims to expand municipal pools in​ underserved communities.

SUNY Schenectady will own the facility, which will be ‌constructed⁣ on a block between⁢ State, ‍South Church,‍ South Ferry, and Fuller streets, ⁢adjacent to the college’s dormitory and just a short walk from a CDTA-owned transit hub on State ⁣Street.

“This ⁢will be a championship swim facility,⁣ attracting thousands⁣ of visitors each year, boosting our economy with sales tax⁣ revenue and bed tax revenue, and most importantly, enhancing the stature of SUNY​ Schenectady while providing a ​valuable resource to ⁤our ​community by teaching all of our residents to swim,”⁤ Gardner said. “The project will also enhance the visibility of the college and ‌provide a direct connection to our‍ entire ⁣community — particularly our youth — and should have a very⁣ positive ​impact upon enrollment.”

Plans for an aquatic center that will host collegiate and other levels of competition ​and provide community swim lessons‌ have been in the works for over​ a​ decade ⁢since the facility ⁣was first expected to⁢ open in Malta.

Developers initially considered​ a move to Mohawk ⁤Harbor in Schenectady a few years ⁣ago, but those plans were ultimately‌ dropped due to a lack of space at the harbor, where a $50 million hockey arena and event center is currently under construction.

Last July, ⁣leaders at the Adirondack Aquatic Center ⁤announced they had⁤ signed a letter‌ of intent to move the facility to ViaPort, but those⁢ plans fell through after SUNY Schenectady President Steady‍ Moono expressed a desire to keep the ​facility close to‍ campus.

“We had some ⁣discussions with‍ President​ Moono‍ and ​he had a strong preference that it ‌be right there⁢ at the college. If it’s going to ⁣be part of the ​college,⁢ it should be‌ right there at the campus,” Gardner said.

SUNY Schenectady is in the⁤ early stages ‍of⁢ developing programming that⁣ will ‍be⁣ hosted at the facility, including potential athletic, academic, and extracurricular activities.

As part ⁣of the agreement, the county, SUNY ‌Schenectady, and Adirondack Aquatic Center have ⁣entered into a 20-year agreement that will‌ see the Adirondack Aquatic Center operate the facility and ensures ⁢the ⁤college can fully utilize the⁤ center for intercollegiate meets, ⁤swimming instructions for all students and staff, and community-wide ⁢learn-to-swim programs for children from kindergarten up to 12th ​grade.

“SUNY ⁣Schenectady has long been committed to leading higher education, career advancement, community programming, and overall growth in Schenectady ​County ⁣and ‍the Capital Region,” Moono said ⁢in a statement. “Today’s exciting agreement reaffirms ‍our commitment yet again, and I am⁤ thrilled to help⁤ expand Schenectady’s influence⁢ in New York state by bringing competitive swimming and ⁣overall aquatics to our area in​ such a meaningful way.”

Revenue in excess of operating expenses will be transferred to SUNY Schenectady, which will place the⁤ funds into‍ a ⁢separate ⁢fund to cover the costs of capital repairs and improvements for‍ the facility, according to the agreement.

A seven-member oversight⁣ board ​will also be created, with two seats ⁤each appointed by the county and Adirondack Aquatic Center and three appointed by SUNY Schenectady.

Some ⁤lawmakers heralded the project as transformational and called the plan a​ “win-win.” ‍Josh ‌Cuomo, who represents Rotterdam ‍in District 4, was the lone dissenting vote against approving the agreement.

“I fully support the ‍Aquatic Center and SUNY Schenectady, but I ⁢would ⁢really like ⁤to see this project stay ⁢in‌ Rotterdam, so for that reason ⁤and that reason only — I’m sure my children will be⁣ there quite frequently when​ it’s completed — I am⁤ voting no,” Cuomo said.

Kara ⁤Haraden,⁣ board president ⁤of the Adirondack Aquatic Center,‍ thanked lawmakers ⁢for‍ their support and touted ⁤the ⁣aquatic center as‍ an all-inclusive facility that ⁢will ⁣provide programming and⁤ opportunities to community members of all‍ ages and skill levels while creating new⁢ revenue‍ for the county.

“The Capital Region Aquatic Center will be a place that⁢ will⁢ serve all ages ⁣and all abilities, from infants to seniors. A place where​ our‍ community will be able ⁣to ⁤learn, play, heal,​ exercise, train and compete,” she said.

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Kiara Thomas
Kiara Thomas
I uncover quirky and compelling stories. Always on the lookout for the 'why' behind the 'what'.
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2 COMMENTS

  1. Great news for the community, the new aquatic center will provide a much-needed recreational space for residents!

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