After sitting empty for a couple of years, the Mitchell Recreation Center’s old pool room will soon be transformed into a fitness area.

Since the $8 million Indoor Aquatic Center was built on the south side of the Rec Center, the room with the old pool has been vacant. As Rec Center officials have been exploring options to utilize the old pool room, the consensus was to repurpose the 3,800 square-foot into a cardio and exercise area.

“Our plan is to take everything that is in our multi-purpose room now and some of our cardio equipment and place it in the old pool room. It will serve as our main multi-purpose room that can also hold classes,” said Mitchell Recreation Center Director Kevin DeVries, noting the repurposed room will have 24-hour access. “It will be a very nice addition to the Rec. It will also add more workout space, which is very beneficial given the coronavirus and social distancing measures.”

With the Parks and Recreation Board’s approval to allow the $20,000 phase of the project to begin, DeVries hopes to have the old pool room remodeled and ready for action within a year. The estimated cost of the total project is expected to hover around $260,000. However, the city budgeted $275,000 for the remodeling project.

As part of the remodeling, the empty pool will be filled in, along with the installation of LED lights and a fresh paint job. In addition, new doors will be installed to allow for easier access to the old pool room.

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When the new cardio and exercise room is complete, the Rec Center will shuffle some of its other exercise areas in the facility. Among the changes will include turning the existing cardio room that faces toward the northwest section of the building into a rehab space for users, such as people who are in post-physical therapy phases.

“The current cardio room will be more of a rehab and senior area for people who are recovering and are in the post-physical therapy stage,” DeVries said. “It will be nice to have those sections dedicated for those types of activities instead of having to do it with less space. It really makes a complete community wellness center like we strive to be.”

For the remodeling project to materialize, the City Council had to approve the funding requests in order for it to be included in the Parks and Recreation Department’s 2021 budget. Initially, remodeling the old pool room was expected to be approved last year. However, after the Mitchell Activities Center leaking roof had to be repaired once again, it prompted city officials to allocate the money for the old pool room to repair the MAC roof.

Considering the revenue shortfalls that many city departments were facing during the City Council’s budget discussions in August 2020, Councilman John Doescher suggested pushing the project back a year or until revenue projections were more clear .

However, Councilman Marty Barington opposed waiting any longer, pointing to the rising costs of building materials that the industry was experiencing. Barington, who is a salesman for a local custom home building company, Custom Touch Homes, warned the council that the costs of “everything in the building world” was going to continually spike due to COVID-19.

“Lumber has already doubled, and sheets of plywood have also doubled in price,” Barington said during the Council’s budgeting work session in August. “Concrete is also going up. And the longer you wait, the worse the costs will get because COVID-19 is not going away anytime soon. When building and material companies shut down, getting supplies has been the hardest part because companies know if you really want it, you are going to have to pay for it to get it.”

DeVries said filling the old pool with concrete is the costliest portion of the remodeling project, which saw bids from contractors hover around $100,000. Bidding for the construction work taking place with the remodeling is set to take place in the next few months.