When Alex Rappoport pitched his concept of a multi-million-dollar municipal pool facility in Saugerties to the town board in April of this year, he was told that he and his supporters would have to raise the funds for the project without help from local taxpayers.
Seven months later, Rappoport and his team only have $2915 to show for their fundraising efforts. But they are asking Saugertiesians to take the plunge and donate an additional $30,000 within the next 80 days to pay for a feasibility study.
“If everyone in Saugerties kicked in two bucks, we would already have the money,” said Rappaport. If the study determines that a pool would be feasible, he reasoned, the supporters would be able to raise money. Either they will run it, or someone will jump in as an investor. “If it looks like a feasible business model, maybe someone will get into the pool business,” he said. “I don’t ever want to get my hands on that money. There’s no organization or bank account, just a group of people who are interested.”
Town supervisor Greg Helsmoortel and parks director Greg Chorvas told him that there could be an aquatic facility at the Cantine sports complex if the community were behind it. Rappoport attended a “build-a-pool” workshop in West Virginia hosted by USA Swimming, the organization that organizes sanctioned swimming events in the country. He contacted swim educators and pool builders, and researched designs and cost analyses of facilities. Rappoport has also looked into money-saving new technologies, like a stainless-steel pool construction.
Ultimately, Rappoport determined that an indoor, year-round multi-facility including multiple types of pools — perhaps including a hot tub, a wading pool and a pool with lap lanes—would be the most economically responsible aquatic option for Saugerties. The reasoning is simple. Even if it were fee-based, an outdoor facility only open for three months out of the year couldn’t break even.
“We’ve always wanted a pool [in Saugerties],” said Jeanine Meyer, member of the village board and the local Kiwanis club. “Someone even wrote it on [Lucky’s Wall]. We have everything else: Cantine Field, the ice rink, the skate park. Why not a pool?”
By March of next year, Rappoport hopes to gather funds for the feasibility study by the Councilman-Hunsker aquatic consulting firm. Rappoport is crowdfunding his initiative on the site IOBY.org (In Our Back Yards).
“We have three primary phases,” explained Councilman-Hunsker’s George Deines. “The first will be a needs assessment where we have an open community input meeting to get their insight on what they want for an aquatic facility. You have to take a look at the area demographic, including age and income. We also figure out what sort of similar facilities within a 35-mile radius exist. Then we come back with different facility concepts and cost analyses. The third step is an operations analysis.”
The firm, Deines said, has conducted over 300 such studies. Rappoport said the firm was the biggest name nationally in the pool-planning game.
A feasibility study that the group conducted in Canyon, Texas in 2015 came to fruition this summer, said Deines.
“I’m just a local mom who is really interested in having an aquatic facility here in town,” said Erin Smith, who has worked alongside Rappoport throughout this endeavor. “I’d love for [my 17-month-old son] to make friends there, possibly make friends on a swim team. I’m passionate about the idea and everyone that I’ve talked to has been very positive. It goes beyond me and swim teams and other adults wanting to swim laps. We want this to be an all age, multi-functional facility, and I think this would be an excellent addition to the Cantine complex.”
While the money for the final product would have to come from private sources, supporters wouldn’t necessarily need to do it all alone. If a local group was able to raise enough money to match a grant, thought councilman and supervisor-elect Fred Costello Jr., then yes, the establishment of a pool in Saugerties would be feasible.
That’s a big if.