Aquatic Center Opening Delayed Until 2015

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Fort Smith residents will have to wait to enjoy the aquatics center set to be built at Ben Geren Regional Park after the Parks & Recreation Department announced it will open in May 2015, one year later than previously presented to the public.

Ongoing discussions involving the city, county and public about funding and proposed plans for the park have delayed the timeline.

"Construction will take estimated about 12 months, and then plans will take at least about four months to complete, and then with the bidding process that takes another month or so working with all of that it'll be May of 2015 now," said Mike Alsup, director of Fort Smith Parks.

Deputy City Administrator Jeff Dingman says as long as the city secures a bid this fall, the delay should not affect the price of construction.

"We don't anticipate any higher pricing," said Dingman. "The pricing that we're using is still relatively new pricing for the materials that we need."

Some Fort Smith residents say they're disappointed with the delay because of the lack of activities available to kids in the area.

"People are excited for something to be actually in Fort Smith - an actual water park that they don't have to travel all the way to Alma for," said Jamika Bunch.

"They don't really have anything here for everybody to do," said Eva Hopper. "You know, they gotta go out-of-town to do it. Lake Fort Smith's way far away. I mean, everything's far away."

Dingman says he too is disappointed about the delay, but it's in everyone's best interest not to rush the process.

"You don't want to rush through the project and then have something that you wish you would've done differently or had a little bit more time to do," he said. "Hopefully that extra year will give us the room that we need to feel comfortable that we've done everything we need to get the best project for the best price."

Alsup says the aquatics center will be a great place for people of all ages and will "add a lot to our community."

The next phase of the project will include drawing constructions plans and submitting the plans to contractors to begin the bidding process, according to Dingman.

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