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Capitalizing on partnerships

Tiffin’s new Rec. Center could lead to new opportunities for area schools
A rough draft site plan by Shive-Hattery shows the location of the Tiffin Recreation Center in the northwest corner of City Park. The city has had preliminary conversations with both the Clear Creek Amana and Iowa City school districts about possibly partnering for a 25-yard competition-sized pool.

TIFFIN– A new recreation center being planned by the City of Tiffin has the potential of forging partnerships between school districts and the city, and providing facilities for high school swimming and diving teams (as well as other competitive swim clubs/teams).
Tiffin City Administrator Doug Boldt gave an update on the project during a joint meeting of the Tiffin City Council and the Clear Creek Amana (CCA) Community School District’s School Board of Directors Wednesday, Jan. 8, at Oak Hill Elementary School in Tiffin.
Boldt showed a rough draft site plan showing the facility on the northwest corner of City Park to the west of the ball diamonds, splash pad and playground. The recreation center is being designed with a gym, office space for the yet-to-be-hired recreation director, a daycare center, and workout space. In addition, an indoor pool is planned, an item residents who responded to a 2018 survey said was a must.
The question the city is trying to answer, and which they posed to the board, is how large of a pool they need.
A recreational-sized pool, Boldt explained, would only need to have depths of 4-to-6 feet. However, it would be unusable for any level of competition. A competition-sized pool would be 25 yards in length, have more depth, lane markers, and the potential for an even deeper portion with a diving board. Twenty-five yards is the minimum for competitive swimming, such as in high schools. Both junior varsity (JV) and varsity girls compete in diving events, whereas JV and varsity boys do not.
Currently, CCA High School has five boys on Williamsburg’s swim team, with two serving as team co-captains, through a program sharing agreement. Five CCA girls swam with the Raiders this past fall, and CCA Activities Director Kurt Ronnfeldt noted “Those numbers are higher than in past seasons.”
Liberty High School in North Liberty shares a swimming program with Iowa City West High at the Coralville Recreation Center. Neither West nor City High have pools, and City High utilizes the Mercer Park Aquatic Center in Iowa City for its swimming and diving programs. Liberty has 23 boys swimming this season and 16 girls having competed last fall. The Liberty Lightning, or “Bolts,” are unable to use the pool at the North Liberty Recreation Center as it is too small for competition events, and wear West High green while competing.
Boldt has met with CCA Superintendent Tim Kuehl, and Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD) Superintendent Steve Murley in very preliminary conversations regarding the possibility of having both districts partner with the city for a 25-yard pool, which could then be utilized by CCA and Liberty, either separately or as a combined team. While CCA has a small number of high school swimmers, there is a robust program in the middle school, with 30-35 students participating, according to Jody Bandy, the assistant principal. The CCA students use the pool at Amana Elementary and compete as a school-sanctioned team against other schools such as Williamsburg, Tipton, Pleasant Valley (near the Quad Cities), Clinton and Muscatine.
Boldt quoted Murley as saying in two years Liberty and West High will need to split up their combined team due to the sheer number of students from both schools participating, which means the “Bolts” will need to either continue to use the Coralville Recreation Center, whenever the City of Coralville and West High swimming and diving is not using it; or will need to find a facility of their own. Swimming is a sport sanctioned by the Iowa High School Athletic Association with the boys competing during the winter sports season while girls, sanctioned by the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union, compete during the fall.
One idea proposed to the board was to have the city, CCA and the ICCSD each put up 1/3 of the cost of a 25-yard competition-level pool. Mayor Berner later suggested the city could sell General Obligation (GO) bonds to pay for the project, and perhaps the schools could help with the repayment of those bonds.
“We tend to think they’re interested,” Boldt said of the ICCSD, while Berner noted there are many successful city/school partnerships across the state they could look at for guidance in crafting a 28E agreement. In CCA’s case, the school libraries at Amana and the middle school are also the community libraries, and the City of North Liberty helped fund a larger gym at North Bend Elementary, which is used by the city on evenings and weekends for recreational programming.
Kuehl did express concerns over the legal authority for the ICCSD to spend money on construction projects outside of its district. Kuehl also said CCA’s PPEL (Physical Plant and Equipment Levy) committee would need to meet and discuss whether or not CCA would participate. “I think there is flexibility in how, if we want to be a part of it, there is flexibility in how that could look,” he said.
“We want a pool, we will have
Tiffin’s new Rec. Center could lead to new opportunities for area schoolsa pool,” Berner said reiterating that without the schools’ participation, it will necessarily be smaller, and stressed the time for a definitive decision is near. A capital fundraising campaign will likely begin this spring. “We’re ready to go,” Berner said.