A few months ago Magnolia was planning to build a recreation center in Unity Park that would house both tennis courts and a public pool. Since then, plans have been scaled back to only include the tennis courts. But the good news for Magnolia residents is that a new public pool may still be built, just not in Unity Park.
Economic Development Coordinator Deborah Rose Miller explained the change.
"After careful consideration, the city determined that maintaining a public pool is cost prohibitive at this time," she said. "In addition, there is limited land in the part available and it made more sense to use it for the tennis courts. What we hope will happen is to expand the current Magnolia natatorium next to Magnolia High School and create an outdoor pool there."
Terry Jones has been the director of the Michael D. Holland Aquatic Center (the Magnolia natatorium) since it opened in 2003. Under his direction, the center has shaped many high school all-state swimmers and divers and the open-to-the public Magnolia Aquatic Club has produced both state and national champions. He does, however, see a tremendous need to expand the current center.
"We would like to see construction of an outdoor 50 meter pool," Jones said. "With two high schools and a larger population, our district has outgrown the present facility. We are continuing to grow, so we need to get the community behind this effort as soon as possible. We are at capacity for swim events right now and a new larger pool would allow us to accommodate more events and long course competitive swimming events. When you have 300 or 400 people involved in two-day swim events, it is an economic boon to the town."
Like many similar venues, the Olympic-sized "long course" pool could be used year-round, even in cold weather, by maintaining the water at a constant temperature and utilizing a "thermal blanket" to retain heat when the pool is not being used.
"Maintenance on an outdoor pool is actually less expensive than on an indoor one," said Jones.
Jones feels money would be saved by building a new pool next to the existing one.
"The location next to Magnolia High is very central for our district and the existing high school parking lot would accommodate all the cars that would accompany large meets," he added. "Much of the current infrastructure is already in place at the current natatorium, which would reduce operating costs."
He sees a big advantage for the community is the fact the pools would be used by both MISD and Magnolia residents.
"Right now the aquatic center is being used by the public for learn-to-swim programs, junior swim teams, masters' swim programs and recreational swimmers," said Jones. "With another, larger pool, even more people could benefit."
Many residents are excited about tennis courts at Unity Park - especially since four of the courts are planned as smaller "quick start" courts which are used for teaching children under 10 tennis skills.
Randy Ortwine is the citizen co-chair of the Magnolia Community Foundation and a past president of the Houston Tennis Association. He believes there is a great demand for the opportunity to learn tennis in Magnolia.
"We want to have the courts open by the end of summer," he said. "We plan to have four full-size lighted courts and four 'quick start' courts, which will be some of very few in the county."
Ortwine has heard from kids and their parents who can't wait for courts to be available. And many adults who enjoy playing in tennis leagues have been asking about the courts. The courts will also provide a great opportunity for Magnolia ISD students to develop tennis aptitude.
"I am confident that in just a short time Magnolia will have its own tennis association, like many larger towns do," he said.
In the meantime, Magnolia ISD and the Community Foundation will share in managing the courts.
Miller stated that bids are going out right now for construction of the Unity Park tennis courts. She believes there will be further opportunities to develop the park in the future.
"Right now we need more land, not only for this park but for others in the community," Miller said. "We hope to uncover land purchase opportunities below market value, which happens if land is less desirable for building, or to locate donors who want to leave a legacy for future generations."