New Albany aldermen consider whether spray park worth repair costs

March 16th, 2021     City schools Featured News

New Albany aldermen are going to have to decide what to do about the spray park at BNA Bank Park in the next month.

They will have to repair it, close it, or possibly even replace it with something better, but they can’t continue to use it as it is.

It appears that at least $45,000 will need to be spent to make the spray park safely operational, but the total could run higher than that.

The question is whether the community service value of the spray park outweighs the financial cost.

The park was opened in 2009 but it took what was described as an 18-year battle by Ward Three Alderman Tommie Beasley to get there.

Beasley had long advocated for a swimming pool or other water facility for area children who did not have access to private pools. Other aldermen finally agreed.

To honor Beasley, the city’s first African-American alderman, the spray park was eventually named in his honor after his death in 2015.

The spray park has had a troubled history.

A $268,000 contract for the park was awarded to Professional Parks of Adamsville, Tenn. The project was expected to take three months but ended up taking 14 as the company apparently dragged its feet.

Additionally, the board of aldermen approved $16,100 for construction to finish work around the park. That included creating a shaded area, purchasing some chairs and tables and constructing a fence to surround the park.

Officials have said that the park itself was never properly installed.

One problem was that the pumps are placed in a below-ground structure that has flooded, damaging the equipment. Also, during the summer the pumps overheat, requiring fans to cool them.

The park was not opened this past year due to the pandemic and this may have added to maintenance problems. More lately, officials fear that the winter storm this year may have damaged it further.

Concern has been expressed about structural integrity of the slide, and slide supports and other framing show considerable obvious rust.

The $45,000 estimate was to construct a structure to move and house the pumps above ground, and was made before concerns were raised about the slide.

The park is not a huge moneymaker, with budgeted income of $20,000. Temporary staff have to be hired to manage the park as well.

However, the park often stays full and draws people from surrounding counties and beyond. The water slide is mentioned as a particular draw because other water venues such as Tupelo’s don’t have one.

Critics say people who come here don’t spend enough locally to offset the cost. Some express concerns about liability, but users have to agree they are there at their own risk.

It is unlikely that the city will build an aquatic center or pool anytime soon, and the city parks have no lake.

That makes the spray park the only water facility (other than the Tallahatchie River) for youths.

There has been some talk of building a better spray park, but with no clear idea of where funding would come from.

Most years, the spray park opens over the Memorial Day weekend.

This year, if repairs are done, the mayor estimated it would take two months before the park could open.

Typically, the regular hours for the spray park are from noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, and Sundays for private parties only.

Parties can be from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 2 to 3:30 p.m. and 4 to 5:30 p.m. Sundays.

There is a $150 fee for private parties.

Regular admission is $4 per child for a two-hour session.

Church and other large groups are permissible from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Tuesdays through Fridays for a cost of $125. A $50 deposit is required for all parties to hold a date.

About 40 children can be accommodated at one time. Children 12 years or younger must be supervised by an adult.

Officials are still waiting on an engineering evaluation of the equipment before they make their decision but continuing delays could mean another season without the spray park, if not its demise.

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