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White Mountain Aquatic Foundation sees aquatic center in Valley's future

Multiple-pool, multi-use facility could serve many purposes

It was all smiles with the Cranmore Swim Team this past January. (Photo Courtesy Maury McKinney). (click for larger version)
May 20, 2010
McKinney, vice-president of the foundation, swimmer and swim instructor, dedicated his swim last fall to benefit the WMAF. McKinney says in his You Tube video, "I am dedicating this swim to all the people in the Mt. Washington Valley who would like to have a place to swim, to recreate, a place for therapy and to hopefully enrich the quality of life in our Valley."

McKinney and seven other volunteer WMAF volunteer board members have spent the past three years setting the course for the aquatic center plans and feasibility study. WMAF was registered as a 501(c) non- profit organization in July 2007.

"Providing an aquatic center to the community is the same challenge I faced when swimming Winnipesaukee: planning, training, determination and some pain," says McKinney.

Community meeting held

On April 29, a community meeting was held at board member MaryAnne Orsino's home. It was a family affair and 35 people attended. Children were invited and came, too. Janice Crawford, executive director of the Mt. Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce, was present and showed her support.

Refreshments were served. The Front Side Grind donated coffee and the White Mountain Cupcakery donated sweets. Glen Group has donated their time too, helping develop banners, signs, marketing materials and advertising strategy.

Orsino was happy with the turnout and says, "Our goal is to have momentum going by Aug. 31, when we will have a fund raiser at Flatbreads." Orsino and the board plan to hold more neighborhood meetings in the near future before the August fund raiser. The last person left the meeting at 10:45 p.m. Orsino says some money was raised, too.

Speaking of funds...

Speaking of funds, how much will the center cost and who will pay?

McKinney and the board have done their homework. An aquatic center can cost between 10 and 15 million dollars. McKinney explains that the taxpayers will not be expected to pay, but funds will be raised privately for a public use facility. Of the roughly 23,000 citizens of the Mt. Washington Valley, if only 7,000 people each gave $10, enough money would be raised to spark the interest of an individual who would donate the rest, says McKinney. The group would also be expected to conduct a feasibility study.

The pool should not be a hard sell. "If you have been touched by water, you realize the value of water and embrace it. It is not like we have to go out on a stump and shout about swimming," says McKinney. He points out the huge value of the center and the strong focus on safety. It will be a multi-use center offering swimming programs for all ages, safety instruction including training for public personnel, fitness programs, family recreation and rehabilitation.

Swimming touches all ages. "Swimming is from the womb to the tomb. The more we can give our children, the better," says Orsino. McKinney agrees and says swimming begins prenatal with pregnant mothers and continues throughout life. He has seen swimmers as old as 100 years competing in swim meets.

An aquatic center is weather resistant, especially important in a tourism community. McKinney, who used to run International Mountain Equipment, knows business and knows how weather impacts tourism in the Valley.

"Twenty years ago, if the forecast wasn't for bluebird skies, people didn't care, they'd come to the Valley anyway. That has changed. Visitors now look at a weather forecast on Thursday; if it isn't good they don't come," says McKinney. At an aquatic center, the whole family can participate. "If it is raining, they will just go to the pool. This can weatherproof the Valley," he says.

Multiple pool design

Here's the model. It would be a multiple pool design. The largest pool is the competition pool, heated to 80 degrees. The middle-size pool is the therapy pool, heated to 89-91 degrees, and the smallest pool is the family recreation pool, heated to 88-90 degrees.

The size of the pool is inversely related to the income it generates. The smallest pool — the family recreation pool — will generate the most income, says McKinney. Multi-use pools are the pools which stay in business, he adds. .

This would be the only aquatic center in the area. McKinney says the closest aquatic center is at the YMCA in Freeport, Maine. Research shows that people will travel 45 minutes to visit a pool. The northern part of Albany may be the best location. It is also the location expected to grow the most in Carroll County, explains McKinney. The center will need 10 acres of land.

Boon to the Valley

The Valley will benefit from an aquatic center. Orsino says an aquatic center will drive people to the Valley. The center can host events for children and adults. Though a pool is expected to close in Dover (it wasn't privately funded), during some events as many as 1,500 swimmers came to town. Swimmers have to eat and sleep somewhere. This could drive business to local hospitality and retail businesses, says McKinney.

Orsino adds that an aquatic center will help real estate values. "Other communities with pools have helped the value of real estate; this would bolster the value of homes," says Orsino.

"We could be an economic health and wellness hub," says McKinney.

For more information, call 447-8805 or visit: www.whitemountain aquatic.com.

Varney Smith
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