Cape finishes $1 million in renovations to Central pool

Monday, August 29, 2011
Members of the Gator Swim Team, right, and Central High School swim team, left, practice at Central Municipal Pool on Thursday. The pool recently underwent renovations, including new diving boards, a remodeled bathhouse, refinished deck and a new bubble.

For several years, Nathan Sides has gone to the Central Municipal Pool twice a week to swim countless laps. It's great exercise, he says, especially when he's training for the a triathlon.

But the Jackson resident hasn't always been the facility's biggest fan.

The changing rooms offered little privacy. The diving boards were old and unimpressive. The air-compressed fabric "bubble" that envelops the pool in the winter had holes that allowed in chilly air.

"It wasn't great," Sides said last week before resuming his watery workout. "Everything was just kind of old."

Sides and others like the pool much better now, with the recent completion of a $1 million renovation project that addresses such concerns. A ribbon-cutting unveiling the finished work took place last week.

"It was worth the money," Sides said. "It's made a huge difference."

The first major renovation in the pool's 31-year history included a new "bubble" as well as the air-handling units, repainting the pool and deck -- which also got resurfaced -- new diving boards and deck furnishings, new fencing and repairing the wading pool.

Members of the Gator Swim Team practice at Central Municipal Pool on Thursday. The pool recently underwent renovations, with a ribbon-cutting last week to unveil the finished work. (Kristin Eberts)

The bathhouse also saw major upgrades, including a new walk-in area, upgraded dressing rooms, the addition of a family changing room and new light fixtures.

"It's made such a dramatic difference when you walk into the facility. It's totally changed," said Penny Williams, the city's recreation division manager for Cape Girardeau Parks and Recreation.

With the destruction of the Capaha Park Pool, the Central pool, built in 1980, is now the city's oldest aquatics facility. Until the work, it had started to show its age. The facility was in desperate need of renovation, Williams said

"There's been very few renovations made to it over the years," Williams said. "It's basically been new paint here and there. After 30 years, it really needed it. It needed a new look, and it got it."

The municipal pool, which was built in a partnership between the city and the Cape Girardeau School District, is a complement to its flashy counterpart, Cape Splash Family Aquatics Center.

But, unlike the water park that closes after Labor Day, the pool, known locally as "the bubble," is open year-round and has an Olympic-size pool.

"We have two great aquatics facilities now," Williams said. "One is recreationally focused, and the other is more competition focused. But both are really good for this community."

Those who use the pool are also raving about it.

The Gators swim team, for example, has had a swim meet since the remodel job was finished, said head coach Steve Franklin. The comments from the participants were positive, Franklin said.

"It was old and out-of-date," Franklin said. "It had never been remodeled. All the plumbing and all the facilities inside didn't work very well or very often. Now it's like new. It's great."

The pool should be safer as well, Franklin said, with the new deck that isn't as slick.

"I'm real happy with the finished product," he said. "I think it's exceptional."

Most of the $1 million project was paid for with parks tax money. The school district paid for about half of the new "bubble," and the Gators team kicked in $6,000 toward repainting the main pool area.

Even those who were initially skeptical about the project now see the value of it. City council member Loretta Schneider originally pushed for a new bathhouse that would be bigger.

"I was disappointed that it wasn't," she said last week. "But what's there is a tremendous improvement. I feel like there's a lot of open space. I think what's really important is that those locker rooms have good showers and some privacy, especially on the women's side. It looks like it's brand-new inside."

She still maintains that she would have liked to a new bathhouse to have been built. But she admits the money just isn't there and that the project was well done.

"I think it's as good as it can be," she said.


Pertinent address:

Members of the Notre Dame High School swim team practice at Central Municipal Pool on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2011. The pool recently underwent renovations including new diving boards, a remodeled bathhouse, refinished deck, and a new bubble. (Kristin Eberts)

1920 Whitener St., Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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