City leaders and contractors confirmed that the TPA Park aquatic center project remains on track for a May opening this year.

City leaders, community leaders and media members were invited to the TPA Park aquatic center project zone on Tuesday afternoon to explore the construction and its developments.

The aquatic center project was first projected to complete in May of 2021 as design elements were introduced to the Frankfort Common Council in Dec. of 2019. However, amidst the pandemic, the council voted to unanimously approve a resolution to delay the project in April of 2020 due to issues created by COVID. In 2022, new designs and finances were introduced for the revitalization of the project, and the project was officially approved to commence.

On Tuesday, several community leaders and media members were invited to TPA Park to explore the construction site under the supervision of the contractors while sporting safety vests, hard hats and safety glasses. Following the tour, city leaders and project managers provided updates on the progress of the project and the outstanding teamwork exhibited by the workers.

Frankfort Parks Superintendent Jason Forsythe stated that he has been involved with the construction plans and development teams since mid-December and has been astounded by the consistent teamwork displayed by the various entities working to develop an outstanding aquatic center for opening in 2023.

“I’ve been involved since Dec. 13. One of the things that I’ve mentioned to Jonathan at Envoy and RL Turner and HWC is I love the fact that they work together,” said Forsythe. “The first meeting that I sat in on, I (saw) everyone knew what was going on. I’ve been in here three or four times I think since that time, and obviously (there’s) a lot of concrete work being done.”

Vice President of Construction at Envoy Jonathan White stated that the team is currently still on schedule to open the doors of the aquatic center toward the end of spring, potentially landing perfectly on Memorial Day weekend. White echoed Forsythe’s comments and stated that the teamwork and dedication of the various teams working to perfect the construction has been exceptional throughout the process.

“The hope and desire of the mayor of the town was to have it open for Memorial weekend in 2023. Our initial schedule showed that opening. We currently still are on the schedule for that opening,” said White. “(We’ve) been very thankful for a, to date, mild winter that has helped us continue with some steady progress. As of (Jan. 24), (we’re) still pouring concrete. We’ve been able to maintain the schedule we initially provided to the mayor and the city, which is a fantastic accomplishment to the entire team–the design team, HWC, RL Turner, ourselves and everyone we’ve worked with to date at the city, it’s been a great relationship.”

As the project began, some community members expressed their sadness regarding the demolition of the previous aquatic center amenities and the renovation of other aspects of the aquatic center due to the community’s memories throughout their lives. Due to the city’s evaluation that the pool could not be repaired, other decisions, such as demolishing and rebuilding the slides and renovating the bath house, became hot topic discussions for the city. As the renovations and rebuilding continues, Forsythe commented about how well the design is coming along and hopes that the children of Frankfort will make memories with the new aquatic center just as the rest of the community did with the previous pool.

“The green slide is now there, and it will be done pretty soon. We’re starting to see the concrete being poured for the cabanas,” said Forsythe. “(There’s) a lot of things going on in the bath house remembering as a kid. I just love the color choices. I think they’re really nice. They’re looking at new roofing going on the building. We looked at that here a couple weeks ago. Seeing it as a kid, remembering the old peers that were there before, I can’t imagine how excited kids are going to be to take part in it in the community.”

Frankfort Mayor Judy Sheets commented that the area has finally begun resembling a fully realized aquatic center and has made more progress each time she visits the construction zone. Sheets expressed that experiencing the potential aquatic center firsthand is an outstanding experience as she is able to visualize the finished product and holds hope that every detail will be fully realized once the project is completed.

“It’s coming alive. We think we know what it’s going to look like, and we see the pictures and you see the drawings and the designs, but today it’s like it came alive. This is fantastic. I am so excited for our community. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun for our kids along with our adults. I think there’s going to be a good time for all of us out here. I was a little shocked even though I’ve been out here several times. Once you get that close to it and you see those big slides and that concession stand, it’s fantastic,” said Sheets. “It’s exciting because now you finally get to see what all is going to happen and what’s going to go into the other part of it. It’s very exciting.”

Developments began amidst the pandemic, but shipping and labor shortages caused a delay in progress from the city and its contractors. As the project began again in 2022, material demands and supply have been steady, allowing for the project to progress smoothly throughout the past few months. Envoy, the city and other entities involved with the construction worked together to ensure that the project remains within the budget, especially with the police station project occurring at the same time.

“The biggest setback was getting the project kicked off,” said White. “There were initial budget constraints that we had to work through collectively in order to get both this project and the police department headquarters within a manageable budget that was allowed by the city and the mayor, and we were able to do that. That was really the biggest part of the battle. Since then, it’s been very smooth.”

Sheets expressed that one of the ways the city ensured that the budget was sufficient for the project was redesigning certain aspects of the aquatic center. Sheets stressed that the main aspects were maintained, such as the planned lazy river, slides, areas for children, concession stand, cabanas and a zero-foot entrance into the pool for the public’s safety and convenience as well as renovations for the pool house to bring it up to date. Sheets expressed that certain design plans were necessary to change for the budget once the project was reimplemented, but the most essential and traditional aspects were preserved.

“We really didn’t (see any setbacks). We had to stop the project, and once we stopped that project, we brought everything up to date from the financial side, and then when we brought the project back in, then we had to financially look at what we had (and) what kind of revenues we thought we were going to have. We made design changes … we had to make design changes. We were expecting to maybe have some lap pools. We weren’t able to do that. We had to size down the concession stands,” said Sheets. “There are different areas that we looked at. It maybe has some of the original design, but overall, we did design changes and made it according to what we felt like we could fiscally take care of. That’s what’s exciting for me. We can still stay within the budget and still have a nice facility.”

Sheets stressed that the aquatic center funding has been derived from the economic development income tax as well as the tax increment financing area funds rather than property tax money or general funds. Sheets assured the community that taxes, such as property tax, will not increase as a direct result of the aquatic center after hearing concerns from citizens. The city has also utilized American Rescue Plan Act funds to supplement the project.

“We had to put together a plan and strategically plan how (we are) going to be able to affod these bonds and still provide good amenities,” said Sheets. “I think between both of them, we’ve done a great job, and both facilities are going to be fantastic.”

The aquatic center project at TPA is expected to conclude and open to the public near Memorial Day weekend in 2023. Further updates will be released as they become available.