Community feedback needed for FAC site redevelopment plans

By: Sherri Kolade | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published July 11, 2017

 Savannah Meyers, of Farmington Hills, jumps into the outdoor pool at the Family Aquatic Center on the last day that the outdoor pool was open to people last August.

Savannah Meyers, of Farmington Hills, jumps into the outdoor pool at the Family Aquatic Center on the last day that the outdoor pool was open to people last August.

File photo by Deb Jacques

WEST BLOOMFIELD — The West Bloomfield Parks and Recreation Commission is looking for residents’ input on site redevelopment plans to upgrade the Family Aquatic Center property.

Parks Superintendent Joe Ketchum said that the dated facility, while not rundown, does not meet the township’s standards.

“Really, the commission would like to give residents the best. This is West Bloomfield — a great community — and we’re looking for opportunities to improve our facility that will attract families to continue to live here and actually come to West Bloomfield,” he said.

New additions to the FAC site may include a spray park, Ketchum said.

A strategic planning process has been underway since last year and has involved discussions with over 20 stakeholder groups, garnering their input on the FAC’s future.

The groups encouraged the commission to seek input from the public on what residents want to see at the aquatic center.

Ketchum said thousands of dollars are wasted at the FAC on “a consistent basis.”

“We didn’t feel that … was a prudent avenue to continue putting our money,” he said. “We’ve been losing pretty much every year that we’ve run that facility. Last year, we lost $280,000 when you take away the revenue and expenses.”

He added that the facility is an “energy hog” that costs over $60,000 annually for utilities alone.

He said the FAC needs a lot of infrastructure repairs, estimated to cost $1.2 million, and if those repairs were done, the township would wind up “with pretty much the same facility,” with no new features.

Ketchum said the building was not originally designed for its current use. It was a neighborhood swim club that the city bought about 20 years ago. It opened in the early 1970s as the Potomac Swim Club.

“What we are trying to do there ... is run recreation programs,” he said, adding that a future spray park, a playground area and year-round park features would be more cost effective for the five-acre property.

The facility will close this fall for construction; it will re-open to the public in summer 2019.

Jennifer Tucker, executive director for the commission, said in a press release that the township is looking forward to the challenge of redesigning the property while “working with our community partners and residents along the way.”

Tucker said during a phone interview that the commission members feel strongly about doing the best for residents.

The commission is looking for public input in the early phases of the design process, according to a press release, beginning with an online survey that can be found at wbparks.org/parkimprovements. A public meeting will be held at the Recreation Activities Center, 4640 Walnut Lake Road, 7-8 p.m. July 17.

Commission Marketing Coordinator Meagan A. Kurnat said that since the survey was sent out in late June, the township had received about 250 responses as of July 5.

“So far, the response has been pretty positive,” she said. “I think people understand what we’re up against when it comes to the Family Aquatic Center, and I think they are excited to have something brand-new in the community.”

The FAC presently hosts swim and fitness classes, and the facility has indoor pool and outdoor pools with splash features, a whirlpool and a slide. The FAC also has a meeting/banquet room and a dance/aerobics studio.

For more information, call Kurnat at at (248) 451-1914 or visit mkurnat@wbparks.org.

The WBPRC online survey can be found at wbparks.org/parkim provements through September.