Mecklenburg County broke ground Thursday on a $3.5 million aquatic center near Charlotte’s Double Oaks community, more than a decade after the project was first envisioned.
Located at the corner of Statesville and Woodward avenues, the new center, scheduled to open May 2017, will replace the nearby Double Oaks Pool that was built in the 1950s.
“This will be the first family aquatic center that we’ve had in Mecklenburg County. It sets the bar for all the aquatic centers going forward,” said Jim Garges, director of Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation, which will manage the center.
Mecklenburg County Manager Dena Diorio said the center was part of a 2008 bond package approved by voters. Construction was delayed, she said, by the ensuing recession, which suppressed the local economy for years thereafter and caused the delay of many county projects.
“It may take a while for us to move forward on some of these projects, but ultimately we do get them done and we do bring the assets into the community,” she said.
A corridor in transition
The aquatic center, on about 2.5 acres, will be built along one of Charlotte’s most rapidly changing corridors – an area that includes Double Oaks, Brightwalk, Genesis Park and Druid Hills – an area that has seen an influx of young professionals seeking homes and apartments close to the city’s uptown core.
The county acquired the land though a swap with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Housing Partnership. In exchange for the aquatic enter site, the county gave up land where the current Double Oaks Pool is locate, just a few block north on Statesville Avenue.
Julie Porter, president of the housing partnership, told Qcitymetro the organization plans to build a retail center and grocery store on the parcel it acquired from the county. And next door to the aquatic center, she sad, the housing partnership purchased and then sold a smaller plot for a private development that may include a brewery, bakery and butcher shop.
“It just made all kinds of sense for us to swap properties,” she said of the deal with the county.
When completed, the Double Oaks Family Aquatic Center will include:
• zero-depth fun zone for children
• six 25-yard swim lanes
• water slide feature
• dive blocks
• splash pool
• pool deck
• pool house for storage, locker rooms, offices, vending and restrooms.
• Sun Shade Sail Structures
More than fun
At Thursday’s groundbreaking, several county officials spoke of a need for more swim and water-safety classes for children, especially in poor communities.
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the accidental drowning rate for African Americans is “significantly higher than that of whites across all ages.” The disparity is widest, the CDC says, among children 5-18 years old.
Garges, the Park and Recreation director, said the county has been working to address such disparities, primarily though free swim classes.
“It’s our commitment to try and make sure that every child is a swimmer by the time they get out of the fifth grade,” he said.
Garges said he would like to see swimming proficiency become a requirement for students graduating from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.