Usage lower at smaller Mustang Pool; city still working on Natatorium replacement, demolition plans
Since the city closed the Morony Natatorium at the end of 2018, it’s been partnering with the Montana School for the Deaf and Blind to use the Mustang Pool.
During the Jan. 13 Park and Recreation Advisory Board meeting, Marian Permann told board members that usage was down, in part because the Mustang Pool is significantly smaller than the Natatorium.
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She said that monthly visits to the Mustang Pool in the fall were:
- September: 247
- October: 411
- November: 551
- December: 372 (the pool was closed for two weeks over the holidays)
Permann said they are still offering two water aerobics classes, aquatic solutions and swimming lessons. She said there’s been an increase in private swim lessons that smaller groups arrange and pay for.
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At the Mustang Pool, they can only have 8-12 children in the pool at one time, whereas at the Natatorium they could have up to 40, she told the board.
When larger groups needed swimming lessons, like private or rural schools, Permann said they worked with Great Falls High for use of their pool.
“We can’t do that all the time, it’s very expensive,” she said.
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That pool costs the city $35 per hour versus the $12.50 hourly rate they pay MSDB, she said.
City lifeguards also provide lifeguard services for the MSDB and the school deducts that from the city’s rent payment, she said.
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Permann said the city aquatics program is also getting more people with mobility challenges and she’s working with local medical providers to grow those services. Permann said she’s trying to get some funding for scholarships for those clients through the money that Natatorium supporters had raised for repairs to to the closed facility.
Park and Rec Director Steve Herrig said he’s nearly finished writing the request for proposals for a feasibility study for a new aquatics facility in Great Falls.
That study is expected to cost $60,000 to $80,000, he said, but would include cost estimates, possible site locations, operations, and public input on whether such a facility would be sustainable.
The city had planned to demolish the Natatorium by now but is on hold for the time being while waiting to see if the City Commission will realign their priorities for Community Development Block Grant funds to address blight so those funds could be used for demolition, Herrig said.
Ground water is seeping into the empty pool in the Natatorium, according to staff, highlighting some of the structural issues with the facility.