Water park bath house renovation opens for bids next week

The bath house at the Electric City Water Park was included in the park maintenance district plan for this year and the construction project opens for bids next week.

Submitted bids will be opened Feb. 6, according to city staff, and the bid award is currently scheduled to go to the City Commission on Feb. 19.

On Wednesday, Ryan Smith, the architect on the project, along with city staff presented the plans for the 1930s-era pool facility to the Historic Preservation Advisory Commission.

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Smith, of Nelson Architects, has been consulting with the Montana State Historic Preservation Office since the bath house is in a historic district within the city and they are working to meet U.S. Department of Interior requirements for historic preservation.

Great Falls Park and Recreation received Community Development Block Grant funding for the design phase of the project and has submitted an application for CDBG funding toward the construction portion of the project. That leaves more park district money available for other park projects, according to city staff.

Smith said the original bath house was a grey brick building and is “starting to get in pretty tough shape.”

At some point, the brick was covered in stucco, which is cracking and breaking off, Smith said.

Ken Sievert, an HPAC member and architect, said he was part of the 2002 project at the bathhouse to restore windows at the front entrance. CDBG funding was used for that project as well, he said.

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Sievert said there were accessibility issues at the time and other windows that weren’t included in the project due to limited funding.

Smith said the project will not take the building back to the original brick but will repair and seal the stucco so it doesn’t deteriorate again in the future.

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The project also includes about two dozen wood windows on the perimeter of the building that the state historic preservation office believes are candidates for rehabilitation versus replacement, so they’ll strip those down, fill with putty, check for damage, clean up and reglaze the glass, Smith said.

“The windows are really pretty,” Smith said, and it’s important to maintain the character of the windows in this project.

Some of the major changes include adding two family locker rooms as well as a family restroom to ease access into the pool area without having to walk through either the mens or womens locker rooms. There will also be a unisex hallway that allows access from the entrance into the pool area, Smith said.

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It makes the facility more functional, said Deputy Park and Rec Director Patty Rearden, but the change will cost them storage space. Staff is looking at options for adding storage elsewhere on the water park grounds and may add a storage shed behind the concessions stand later.

Smith said that the team is also looking at options for adding lighting since there are some dark spots around the building that create some safety concerns for staff. It is light well into the evening in the summers when the pool is open but Rearden said toward August it’s often dark when the last of the pool staff are closing the facility for the night.

The project also includes some changes to better allow accessibility to people in wheelchairs or with other mobility issues. They’re planning to increase the size of the ramp and add more hand rails, Smith said.

Inside the bath house, the reception desk will be remodeled to be more functional and allow some retail space. The plans also call for replacing plumbing fixtures throughout for better accessibility. The shower rooms have a lot of exposed piping and Smith said they’re cleaning that up and putting the new showers on timers for better water conservation.

The goal is to have the project completed in time for the season opening of the water park this year, but that may be optimistic, according to the city engineer’s office.

Rearden said the water park is only open for the summer, but 30,000 to 35,000 people typically come through each season.

“It’s a heavily used,” she said of the WPA project that was built in the 1930s.

The city has added a section of the website to track projects in the park maintenance district plan and that is available here.