There Won’t Be a Natatorium in Curtis Park

Olin Lane
Olin Lane

The University Park City Council sided with a large segment of its constituents on Tuesday when it rejected the idea of building a natatorium in Curtis Park.

The proposed joint-use indoor facility — in partnership with Highland Park ISD — would have been located adjacent to the existing outdoor Holmes Aquatic Center. However, Mayor Olin Lane and all four council members dismissed the idea because of concerns over traffic, costs, and logistics.

“I am convinced that the intersection of Lovers Lane and Dickens is too heavily traveled,” Lane said. “It’s obvious to me that the traffic does not need to be increased in that area.”

The idea stemmed from discussions last year between the city and the school district. HPISD hopes to eliminate its existing swimming pool at Highland Park High School as part of an upcoming bond election in order to use that space for more classrooms.

Once it was announced last summer that Curtis Park was the location under consideration for such a partnership, it led to a wave of community opposition that included an online petition and yard signs against the idea, and culminated in a contentious public forum at City Hall.

Then the city commissioned a Colorado firm to conduct a feasibility study about the concept, the results of which were finalized in December.

“I would take Curtis Park off the table,” said council member Taylor Armstrong. “In the end, it comes down to a [school] district problem.”

Indeed, Lane said UP won’t close the door on a potential partnership, but will wait for HPISD officials to propose any other potential sites before discussing it again. So far, the district has not unveiled any other options for a small component of a massive bond package it hopes to send to voters this spring.

But now HPISD knows for certain that its first choice for replacing its natatorium won’t work.

“I think we should do everything we can to help the school district,” said Mayor Pro Tem Bob Begert. “I would encourage the school district to look at campus options.”

3 thoughts on “There Won’t Be a Natatorium in Curtis Park

  • January 21, 2015 at 12:28 pm
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    While City of UP leaders created unnecessary upfront apprehension by entering into active discussions with HPISD and hiring a “consultant” prior to informing citizens about this project, they did embrace the myriad of concerns raised by UP residents (led by the Save Curtis Park community organization). I am both happy and relieved that the Council listened to the issues, and in the end unanimously agreed that these issues far outweighed any purported benefit of an indoor swimming pool that UP residents never wanted in the first place. Residents of UP would have had very limited access to the facility since HPISD users and other non-UP swim clubs would have first “dibs” on use. Additionally, while HPISD would have paid much of the upfront capital cost, the cost burden for the City of UP would be uncapped including without limitation ALL operating costs and ALL future (capital) costs to maintain and upgrade the facility over time. UP would also bear all “soft” costs, including nightmarish traffic and parking conditions. So bravo to the UP Mayor and City Council for making an informed decision about what is best for the City and for truly listening to its citizens.

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  • January 21, 2015 at 10:22 pm
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    I’m sorry. I never saw a downside in having an indoor pool in the neighborhood. A boost for the school system, and outside the Robin Hood tax chicanery. A great community amenity. But I suppose I underestimated how “nightmarish” the traffic would be. Just like the “nightmarish” traffic around the SMU natatorium.

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    • January 22, 2015 at 4:34 pm
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      Well there also was the part about eliminating a heavily-used public park, but your SMU analogy doesn’t make sense. The SMU natatorium is buried in the middle of the campus, nowhere near any major streets. Its users (being mostly SMU students) either walk there or drive themselves, and if they drive they park in assigned lots. HPHS is perfectly capable of constructing an indoor pool on its own campus at its own expense.

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