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Artesia approves aquatic center


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ARTESIA — After years of not having a public swimming pool, the Artesia City Council has given the approval for the Artesia Aquatic Center.

They voted Tuesday night by a 5-1 count to go in with the Artesia Public Schools, Artesia General Hospital and the Artesia Aquatic Center Foundation to build the new public facility.

Ground is expected to be broken later this year and the grand opening is set for May of next year.

The project will be built in three phases with an outdoor recreation area, a wellness and therapy pool and an indoor atheltics pool. The total cost is expected to be $19.5 million.

The cost was a concern for some councilors during Tuesday night’s meeting.

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“I knew it was going to be a tough vote,” said District 1 Councilor Raul Rodriguez.

“(He) didn’t know what everyone else’s feelings were, because the aquatic group was formed and we were fortunate we had a recreation committee meeting last (Monday) night so we got a heads up on what was upcoming on the aquatic center,” he added.

Rodriguez said this is one project where it’s hard to say no to the donors, “if you look at the plans on it, it’s going to be state-of-the-art.”

Rodriguez said the new facility will be built near Artesia Jr. High School and it will be located on 10 acres.

“It’s been about four years since we talked about this,” Rodriguez said. “I think it is overdue in some people’s minds and in the city’s mind, we were thinking about the budget plans and we weren’t really kind of expecting it at this point in time, but since those others have stepped up, it’s kind of hard to turn it down.”

The former Artesia High School Natatorium was torn down a few years ago. It was across the street from the Bulldog Bowl and the brand new APS headquarters occupies its former location.

During Tuesday night’s debate, Artesia Mayor Phil Burch pointed out there is currently no pool in Eddy County that can be used for health benefits.

“Artesia General Hospital will benefit with their pool included in this,” he said.

Regarding the cost, he added, “it may be a time we have to grit our teeth and do something. I think it would be terrible if we don’t take this opportunity tonight.”

During the same debate, Rodriguez pointed out that the Artesia High School swim team hosted a “home meet” recently in Carlsbad.

“It will be postively a success,” Rodriguez said during the meeting.

Mayor Pro-Tem Terry Hill was the lone dissenter. He was concerned about the cost.

After the vote was taken, Mayor Burch asked city staff to draft a letter to Eddy County leaders asking for their support.

General assignment reporter Mike Smith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 307, or at sports2@rdrnews.com.

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