At first, the resort-style aquatic center at Samuell-Grand was set to open the first weekend of summer, ready to bring the children of East Dallas into a splash-pad induced bliss.
A few months ago, construction and weather delays pushed the opening date to mid-July, which still left plenty of time to enjoy the lazy river and pool.
But according to park staff, the latest construction timeline pushed the opening of the pool back to August 18. Dallas ISD starts school on August 20. Acquiring permits, studying the soil for contaminants, shipping equipment from overseas and making sure the new buildings’ stone matches the original buildings have all factored into the delay.
“I am extremely disappointed in the communication and delivery of the aquatic centers,” Jesse Moreno says. Similar delays have occurred for the city’s other new aquatic centers.
Construction consultant Kimley Horn billed the company as an expert in aquatic construction. “It has been excuse after excuse from Kimley Horn,” Moreno says. Kimley Horn has not responded to interview requests.
At a Park Board meeting at Samuell-Grand Thursday, District 12 Representative Rodney Schlosser asked, “How can permitting be a delay when the city is the one issuing the permits to the city?”
Assistant Director Louise Elam said that the parks have to go through the same process as anyone else getting a permit.
Schlosser suggested some apologetic signage and encouraged the Park Department’s decision to extend the swim season for the city pools on weekends through the end of September. Moreno says he is working with staff to extend the swim season through September so that residents can enjoy the pool while it is still hot outside.
District 14 Park Board Member Paul Sims also encouraged the city to find a way to extend the pool systems by pushing to hire more staff or paying them more, noting that Dallas doesn’t cool down until late October, but many of the pools close in mid-August.
Robb Stewart, District 10 Park Board member says the fault lies at the feet of the City’s Office of Environmental Quality, who required the soil studies that delayed the projects for months. “There is a lot of blame to go around, but it is not all about the contractor. The delays on the city’s part caused it to get there.”
“I think we need to let people know we are sorry,” said board president Bobby Abtahi, who suggested that the late summer date be communicated as a soft opening in preparation for next summer. He also suggested incentives for construction projects to be completed on time or early. “Let’s take our lickings and step up for the next round.”
“We have let down 1800 kids a day,” Moreno said at the meeting, as he questioned Elam about the delays and permits. “I think it is too much for one company to handle,” he says of giving one company so many of the aquatic center construction jobs. “I hope we can get our act together and hold people responsible. This can’t happen again.”
The new aquatic center will include a children’s Sprayground with a multi-level play unit that includes ground geysers and a beach entry. Other amenities include individual water slides into a plunge pool, eight lap lanes, a lazy river and a resort-style pool. The bathhouse will be renovated, but the new construction will seek to pay homage to the original architecture and will attempt to preserve any significant shade trees.
“There are kids who are ready to swim and stay cool in this hot Dallas weather,” Moreno says.
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