Madison Mayor Bob Courtney has proposed a multimillion-dollar project to totally replace the city’s 84-year-old Crystal Beach pool with a new facility that retains the iconic “Seashore” design of the original while providing an entirely new pool with modern features and amenities as well as improved accessibility and a more efficient and effective water filtration system.
The plans were announced before a packed crowd at Madison City Council on Tuesday by Courtney, Economic Development Director Tony Steinhardt III, Parks Director Matt Woolard, and the city’s consultants on the project. Courtney said Tuesday’s presentation was meant as an informational session — he had earlier teased the presentation in a video on Friday — but that decisions and work will need to move fast if the facility is to reopen during the 2023 pool season.
“Crystal Beach is a regional destination, and it is important to our community and me that we preserve this piece of Madison’s history,” Courtney said. “The city has continued to work diligently to develop a project plan that will prioritize the safety of those who frequent Crystal Beach swimming pool while preserving the original ‘Seashore’ design.”
Demolition of the current pool would begin in less than a month. Construction of the new pool would begin in November with completion targeted for late in the summer of 2023. That would mean local swimmers would be without the pool for a portion of the 2023 season after seeing it shutdown all of 2022 when work to replace the liner revealed catastrophic structural damage to the basin, piping and filtration system.
The plan includes the demolition and removal of the existing pool, deck, slide structure, associated pool equipment and piping followed by replacing the pool entirely while preserving the original shape, and offering amenities for multigenerational use.
The existing pool, designed by Vincennes architects Sutton & Routt and built as a Works Progress Administration project in 1938, is actually slightly larger that the proposed replacement — about 14,250 square feet to 20,000 square feet — but the new pool will be packed with more features and retain the iconic clamshell design known as “Seashore.”
Woolard said the current “bather load” is about 1,000 swimmers while the new pool would accommodate 892 swimmers. Considering that the pool’s largest crowd recorded by the park’s department in the last 20 years was 1,047 in 2011 with a 20-year average high of 627, there should be plenty of water to go around.
At the same time, Courtney said the new pool is being designed to not only serve the community but serve as a regional destination much like Crystal Beach was when he was a growing up in Madison and swam there with people from all around.
The new pool will feature elements such as handicap access to meet ADA requirements and a zero-beach entry suitable for young children with nearby interactive water features for young children. The current giant slide will be replaced with two modern units — one enclosed and one open — and a 150-foot lazy river suitable for floating or resistance swimming will be added. There will be two 25-yard dedicated lap lanes for exercise swimming, diving boards, chairs and umbrellas and lighting in the pool and on the grounds.
The most shallow section of the pool would be similar to a splash pad while the deepest diving area — Crystal Beach has not had diving boards for years because the water was too shallow for safe diving — would drop off to 11.5 feet.
Areas like the lazy river and laps lanes would be about 3.5 feet deep and a center section beneath the slides that would also be suitable for water aerobics classes and other group activities would range from 3.5 to 5 feet.
Courtney said the proposed pool should serve the community years into the future with an operational plan that will reduce overhead costs compared to the old pool and features that make it desirable for swimmers of all ages and abilities.
Local resident Jan Vetrhus, who enjoys Crystal Beach for swimming and water aerobics, has been a frequent visitor to meetings when the parks department and others have discussed the future of Crystal Beach. She has voiced her concern over the pool numerous times in the past year including fear that the city might lose not just the pool but a piece of history depending on how city officials envision the facility going forward.
“I was very skeptical when someone said you were considering a smaller pool, but when I looked at the design, I was blown away at what a great job they’ve done,” Vethrus said as the audience applauded.
City officials and consultants said they do not yet have an estimate on how much the new pool will cost — that won’t be known for sure until the design is set and the project is ready to let for bids — but pools cost about $400 per square foot and that calculates to about $5.7 million based on the proposed size.
The project will require a bond issue to finance and city council took action later in Tuesday’s meeting to adopt an ordinance that will allow the Redevelopment Commission to form a Redevelopment Authority to own the pool and take on the bond debt with the city repaying the bonds until the note is retired at which time the city will assume ownership of the pool.
Courtney said the procedure is much like the county did to finance construction of its new jail. The Redevelopment Commission was already on board with the project by providing the cash to hire the consultants and architects as well as the current project to renovate and upgrade the pool house that should open in November for year around use.
According to Courtney, while he previously had hoped to replace the liner and extend the life of the pool another few years much like previous administrations have done, the condition of the basin, pool deck and equipment indicates that the useful life of the pool has ended. To put a couple of million dollars into a new liner and other repairs are a waste of money at this point and that amount is a good start on the cost of replacement. He said the cost could range from $5 to $7 million but the plan is to make that money count by designing and building a facility that will last generations and operate safely and efficiently.
He said the pool, like much of the parks system and other city properties, has deferred maintenance for too long and the bill is coming due now. The key is to plan solutions that serve the community well into the future and pay for those projects by leveraging the city’s funds through bond issues such as the one just entered for Madison’s drinking water improvement project and the one being proposed for Crystal Beach.
Madison’s Board of Public Works and Safety approved engineering contracts with Jacobi, Toombs and Lanz for the city’s $15 million Main Street resurfacing project at its meeting on Tuesday.
The section to be resurfaced extends from Jefferson Street in downtown Madison to the top of Hanover Hill but is part of a bigger project to reenvision Main Street, which the city took over from the State of Indiana in 2020. The city has received federal highway grants for phases one and two of the 4.4-mile overall project.
Deputy Mayor Mindy McGee said Jacobi, Toombs and Lanz was selected as engineer for phases one and two because the firm received the highest rating and evaluation on proposals for the contract.
The engineering contract for phase one (the top of Hanover Hills to the incline bridge at Mcintire Street) is $580,000 and the contract for phase two is $1,082,000 (the incline bridge to Mill Street). “These contracts are part of the preliminary engineering, right of way, construction planning as a part of the projects,” said McGee, noting that once the contracts are awarded the amount paid will not be more than that amount. “They may be less but they definitely will not be more.”
“There is a lot of work before a potential (bid) letting date in the spring of 2026,” said Madison Mayor Bob Courtney. “It may seem like it’s far off but it really isn’t.”
McGee said the city is planning to file application for funding in November for phase three of the project, which involves the section from Mill Street to Jefferson Street.
In a related matter, Board member Karl Eaglin commended McGee for the restriping done recently on Main Street after striping applied last year did not hold up as expected and made lanes and crosswalks difficult to see at night and in the rain.
“They’re not quite done, but it’s a big improvement,” McGee said, thanking Eaglin. “It’s actually what we paid for the first time, to be quite honest.”
She said the workers will be back Monday, weather-permitting, to do the crosswalks, stop bars, turn arrows, lane arrows — everything that requires handwork with hopes of having that completed before the Madison Chautauqua Festival of the Arts on Sept. 23-24.
Bids for Destination Madison — the City of Madison’s U.S. 421 Gateway and Mulberry Streets Arts Corridor developments — came in almost $1 million less than the alloted funding from the city’s READI grant, it was announced at Tuesday’s meeting of the Board of Public Works and Safety (BPWS).
Bids were opened Tuesday with the lowest bidder, Schutte Excavating of Greensburg, Indiana, bidding a combined $1.5 million for the U.S. 421 Gateway and Mulberry Streets Arts Corridor projects. Separate bid costs for each project came in slightly higher at $1.6 million.
Nicole Schell, Madison’s director planning, said awarding of the contract is pending legal and engineering review, which she said will be on the agenda for board approval on Sept. 19.
The city has been allocated $2,556,200 Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative (READI) grant funding from Our Southern Indiana Regional Development Authority. At last Friday’s OurSIRDA meeting, $879,283.20 was formally released for the Mulberry Street Arts Corridor portion of the Destination Madison funding with expectation that the remainder earmarked for the US 421 Gateway project will soon receive similar authorization.
The U.S. 421 Gateway Park project will improve the entry way into the city of Madison and state of Indiana by providing a new gateway with green space and parking for vehicles, golf carts and electric vehicle charging, along with bike racks and drinking fountains. The Mulberry Mural Arts Corridor project will enhance the parking lot near the Kindness mural in the northeast corner of Mulberry and Second streets to create seating areas and green space. The project will also create 20 additional parking spaces in a city-owned lot behind the Madison Comfort Station on Main Street.
Schell said construction could begin by Oct. 1 and be completed by June 2023.
The remaining Destination Madison dollars from the READI grant are now available for other city projects, which Schell indicated could possibly go toward the Indiana Music City Amphitheater planned for Bicentennial Park.
In other business, the Board:
• Approved street closings for the Winter Farmers Market around the Broadway Fountain on Saturday mornings from Oct. 1 to April 29. The Farmers Market will not operate on the Saturdays of Dec. 24 and Dec. 31. Street closings were also approved for the Broadway School Reunion in the vicinity of Gaines Park on Saturday, Sept. 17, and for the Mill Street Block Party between First and Second streets on Sunday, Oct. 1
• Approved a contract with Jenner, Pattison and Sharpe attorneys at law, as retainer fee for Joe Jenner to serve as attorney for the city through Dec. 31, 2022 at a cost of $1,250 per month.
Jeff Matheny has deep roots in the early Madison music scene. “I played in a band called The Princetons with Clint Bear, Terry Lodge, Tim Kennedy and John McKay. I was a sophomore at Madison High then,” relates Jeff.
“My Junior year it was The Crystals with George Dyer and Bob Canida. We played up at the State Hospital quite a bit. After that it was a band called The Romans of Sound, if you can believe that, with Bill Canida, Mike Risk and Jake ‘Jigger’ Graham. That band even got to play on the TV show ‘High Varieties’ that ran on Channel 11 back in those days.
“But then along came college, and I played guitar and bass in various bands, but my days in Madison were over. I got a job up in Columbus in the forestry trade, and played in a bunch of country bands there. Sue & the Hitchhikers. Lloyd Loman Band. The Road Home band out of Indy.
“Then I got in with a band in 1974 that would sort of set my musical path going forward. The band is called Prairie Creek, and I played with them until 1985 when I got transferred to New Jersey. Eventually I ended up working in Georgia, and I played bass at my church down there.
“But in 2021 I was finally able to retire and I came back to Madison. I’m on the city Tree Board, which is fun and fits with my career experience in forestry. But one of the first things I did when I got back to this area was get in touch with my old Columbus friends in Prairie Creek Band.
“Well, we just picked up basically where we left off over 35 years ago. We still play a lot of the same classic rock tunes we did back then, too. It’s been extremely rewarding and it keeps me quite busy. Currently we are playing two or three gigs a month up in the Columbus area.
“But what I’m really excited about is an upcoming gig here in Madison on September 23 at The Central. The music scene here is way more active, and the quality of the bands coming through on a regular basis is really amazing. It’s very gratifying to be a part of what’s going on here in Madison, musically speaking.
“People can expect a lot of classic rock, as I mentioned before. Bob Seeger. Steve Miller. The Eagles. Tom Petty. CCR. Skynyrd. Even some fast country tunes. We try to make it so people can dance, but we also try to keep our volume level not super loud, so folks can enjoy the show and talk if they want.
“I really hope everyone will come out on Sept .23 and give us a listen, I think you’ll be very pleased with our sound. We work very hard to keep the show tight, with clean beginnings and endings to every song. We’re a bunch of old, experienced dudes, we know how to play. Come on out and join us!”
Looking ahead on the calendar, there are a few special musical shows coming up that you may want to grab tickets for, before they sell out. Next Thursday, Sept. 15, Rusty Bladen & Sara Trunzo are playing at House of Jane. These are very small, intimate shows, so get your tix now at the House of Jane Songwriter Sessions Facebook page. Looking out to the last week of September, there are two amazing weeknight shows coming to Red Bicycle Hall. Alex Meixner, the king of Oktoberfest polka music, will be at The Bike on Tuesday, Sept. 27. And on Thursday, Sept. 29, Mike & The Moonpies (last seen on the big stage at Roostertail Fest) will be coming to town. Tickets for these shows are at RedBicycleHall.com.
Charlie Rohlfing is a retired advertising man and partner in The Red Bicycle Hall music venue. Look for his distinctive fedora bobbing above the crowd, anywhere live local music is happening.