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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/File Photo A swimmer makes a splash last summer while taking turns on the diving board at the Melvin Ford Aquatic Center in Bentonville.

BENTONVILLE -- A plan for outdoor features at the Melvin Ford Aquatic Center will prepare it to serve the public for another 25 years, said David Wright, parks and recreation director.

The center at 2000 N.E. Memorial Park Square is 26 years old and features a 50-meter lap pool, 13-foot-deep diving well and 1-foot-deep wading pool. It draws about 40,000 swimmers annually, according to recreation officials.

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The pool house underwent a $515,000 renovation last year. The pool house holds administration offices, the cashier counter, dressing rooms, storage rooms and a concession stand.

The parks and recreation plan calls for outside amenities to be improved.

The City Council unanimously decided Tuesday to hire Water Technology to develop a plan for the aquatic center. The cost is $18,300 plus $4,200 for reimbursable expenses.

The lap pool will remain and other attractions will be added to increase the play value, Lee Farmer, recreation services manager, wrote in a memo to the council.

"This project is to identify, at least conceptually, those possible improvements," Farmer wrote.

Improvements or added features haven't been identified, but some ideas could be more waterslides, a lazy river or zero-depth entry point -- where the entrance into the pool is gradual and without steps or ladders, Wright said.

The lap pool helps draw swim teams to the city for competition meets but added features could benefit visitors to the city as well as its residents, said Kalene Griffith, Visit Bentonville president and CEO.

New or additional water features could provide entertainment for families here for another reason, such as a baseball or softball tournament, she said.

The Wisconsin-based company was selected from four aquatic engineering companies submitting qualifications for the project, according to meeting documents. A selection committee reviewed the proposals and made its decision based on delivery methods, experience and pricing.

Public meetings will be scheduled in May or June to gather input for the plan, Wright said. The plan is slated to be completed by fall, but there's no time frame when implementation may start.

"This is the research to find out what we want to do, and then that allows us to budget," Wright said, adding he doesn't anticipate money to be available next year.

NW News on 03/01/2018

Print Headline: Plan to guide Melvin Ford improvement

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