City plans to demolish Natatorium by end of June

City Commissioners voted unanimously during their Jan. 17 meeting to approve a contract for the first stages of demolishing the Natatorium.

Commissioner approved a $34,250 professional services agreement with TD&H Engineering for design and construction phases to support the demolition of the 17,200 square foot Natatorium, which has been closed since the end of 2018.

The decision to close the Nat came after bricks fell off the exterior of the building in early 2018, exposing additional problems with the façade and roof with repairs at an estimated $539,834 to $613,088.

The Natatorium is located at 2nd Avenue North and 12th Street.

City Park and Recreation Director Steve Herrig said the contract include plans for demolition, saving the front sidewalk and the basketball courts and laying out the new playground and pavilion planned for the park space.

The planning phase will be funded by park maintenance district funds, Herrig said.

Park and Rec has requested Community Development Block Grant funds for the demolition work and that grant will be considered at a February commission meeting.

Construction progressing on city’s new indoor aquatic facility

If awarded, Herrig said the city will go out for bids for demolition that has to be completed by the end of June under the grant agreement.

The Natatorium is being replaced by the indoor aquatic and recreation center currently under construction in Lions Park.

City approves contract changes for indoor aquatics center

The current Nat was built in 1966, after its predecessor on the same site was closed in 1963 due to significant settling throughout the building causing walls to shift, the pool to leak and the foundation to crack, according to a memo from City Manager Greg Doyon during the city’s 2018 budget process, which included multiple public meetings.

A 2011 study found masonry staining, groundwater concerns, water leakage in the basement and other nonstructural issues. The high water table at the site was also a concern in the report and it recommended projects totaling $997,114 that should be done over 1 to 50 years, according to city records.

Proposed pool fee increases small; aquatics program facing larger budgetary challenges

Since then, the city has partially removed the top of nonbearing load walls to allow for foundational movement, mud jacking and door replacement.

Since 2004, the city has also done more than $357,939 in repairs including roof repairs, ventilation tunnels around the pool were filled with concrete since they were in danger of collapsing, a new pool liner, drain pipe liner, boiler replacement, pool desk resurfacing, asbestos testing, southwest corner to women’s locker room lifted due to cracks and settling in foundation, doors and door jams replaced.

City looking at costs, options to repair Natatorium, Civic Center, wave rider

In the meantime, the city is continuing to offer lessons and swim classes at the Mustang Pool at the Montana School for the Deaf and Blind.

City working to use MSDB pool as alternative while replacing Natatorium

Herrig also discussed the lifeguard shortage briefly with the board.

“Staffing this year was pretty touch,” he said.

Citizens organizing for Great Falls’ future of indoor swimming

Herrig said the city offered to reimburse lifeguards for their cost of their certifications if they stayed the full season, but it didn’t keep staffing levels at the required levels to keep the neighborhood pools open.

Citizens ask to save Natatorium; city plan remains closure by Dec. 31

The city focused their lifeguard resources on the water park, Herrig said, but kept the spray parks open since they don’t need lifeguards.

Commission adopts budget, including intent to raise taxes and plan to close Natatorium

Herrig said that aquatics staff checked with the county club, high school and other community pools to potentially find additional lifeguards, but with no luck. Herrig said he spoke with aquatics facilities in other Montana cities who also had trouble staffing lifeguards this summer.