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City dives in to $6M proposal

Mitchell Aquatic Club President Ryan Huber speaks at a Mitchell City Council meeting on Monday night at City Hall, during a discussion about the city's proposal to build an indoor swimming pool. (Chris Mueller/Republic)

The city's proposal to build a competition-sized indoor swimming pool in Mitchell received a roomful of support from local swimmers at a City Council meeting Monday night at City Hall.

During the meeting, Mayor Ken Tracy explained the city's proposal to build an indoor pool next to Dakota Wesleyan University's as-yet unbuilt wellness center on the south side of the school's campus in Mitchell.

Members of the Mitchell Aquatic Club filled the seats and lined the aisles of the Council Chambers in City Hall, as Ryan Huber, the club's president, announced the club would be willing to contribute $1 million -- or $200,000 per year over the next five years -- to the project, which Tracy said is expected to cost roughly $6 million, if the city elects to move ahead with the project.

DWU plans to break ground this fall on a new $10 million, 90,000-square-foot wellness center on the south side of the school's campus in Mitchell. The city's proposed indoor swimming pool is estimated to cost roughly $6 million, Tracy said.

The two facilities could be built next to each other -- or even be attached to one another -- but the city and school will pay for their own facilities and not share in the cost of construction, Tracy said.

Tracy said Monday night's discussion provided an opportunity for the city to begin hearing feedback on the proposed project.

"I think its time that we certainly discuss and debate what the plan should be," he said.

DWU President Amy Novak said the project would be a way for the city to solidify an already strong relationship with the school.

"We see this as a strong wellness corridor, and it really makes a statement for the community," she said.

Huber said the club's current facility on North Main Street is limiting.

"I think it's safe to say, our program is second to none in quality," Huber said. "We're just limited by the size of our home."

To pay for the indoor swimming pool, Tracy said the city would use money set aside by the council the past few years and revenue from loan payments to make a $1 million down payment. Then, Tracy said, the city would make $300,000 yearly payments, which would be combined with the Mitchell Aquatic Club's $200,000 payments for five years. After those five years, the city would have paid off the debt incurred by the water pipeline project and could use that money to pay its debt on the indoor swimming pool.

Councilman Mel Olson said who pays for maintenance and upkeep of the facility would need to be decided before the city would move ahead with the project.

"We recognize the details need to be worked out," he said.

Council President Jeff Smith said the facility could be an economic advantage for the city.

"We could really set Mitchell apart if we choose to proceed," Smith said.

For months, discussions between the city, DWU and Avera Queen of Peace Hospital have been ongoing, with the intention of forming a partnership to promote health and wellness in the community.

"We think this is an opportunity for the three entities to work together to provide an outstanding wellness facility," Tracy said.

Avera Queen of Peace has not made any formal announcements regarding its involvement, Tracy said, but the hospital has been included in all the discussions.