By Stephen J. Kotz
Southampton Town Aquatics and Recreation, a group whose initial effort to build a public swimming pool was shot down in a referendum back in the mid-1990s, is back at it.
The group plans to ask the Southampton Town Board at a work session at 10 a.m. on Thursday, February 1, to allow it to build a privately financed aquatic center at Red Creek Park in Hampton Bays.
According to Josephine DeVincenzi, a retired Southampton School District administrator, who serves as the group’s vice president, the group plans to raise up to $25 million for the project, which would include $19 million for the facility itself and another $6 million to provide seed money for operating costs.
Ms. DeVincenzi said she first became involved with the organization more than 20 years ago after a student at Southampton High School, who was unable to swim, drowned when the boat he and several others were in, capsized.
“When you are in a place that is surrounded by water, it’s a no-brainer,” she said of the need for a pool. “Every child should be waterproofed. Every child should be able to swim the length of a pool and tread water.”
Southampton Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said on Tuesday he had met with members of the group and said he was confident the town board would agree to reserve a parcel at Red Creek as a place to build the aquatics center, provided STAR is able to show it can raise the money needed to build and run the facility.
“I’ve made it very clear they cannot ask the town for any capital,” he said. “They would have to raise all the money and demonstrate they have a sustainable operating model.”
Mr. Schneiderman said it would be possible that an arrangement, similar to that at Southampton Youth Services in North Sea, in which the town provides some funding in exchange for affordable rates for town residents, could be established.
“I think it would be a real game changer for Hampton Bays,” he said, noting that he believed an aquatic center would raise property values as well as provide a much-needed recreational facility for town residents.
Ms. DeVincenzi said STAR envisions a facility with a 25-meter competitive pool and a second pool with warmer water that would have a miniature water park with slides and other attractions for children. That pool would also serve seniors and other leisure swimmers. Finally, the center would be rounded out with third pool that would be reserved for physical therapy.
Southampton Town currently has one public pool, a 30-by-50-foot outdoor facility at Southampton Youth Services in North Sea that is used for summer camp and swimming lessons and open to the public on a limited basis. Suffolk Community College in Northampton is also planning to build a pool, which will be open to the public when not in use by the college.
After STAR’s effort fell short more than 20 years ago, another group, Southampton Aquatic and Recreation Center, sprang up and proposed a pool for a site in Westhampton. Those plans also fell by the wayside in 2009.
Ms. DeVincenzi said STAR has been quietly working on its latest plans for the past two years and has about $500,000 on hand from early donors.
Some of that money has been used to hire Counsilman-Hunsaker, a consulting firm, which reviewed the findings of a feasibility study and helped it sharpen its focus. STAR has also been working with the Sports Facilities Advisory, a planning and management firm that Ms. DeVincenzi said will be charged with taking the project “from concept to concrete.”
Although Ms. DeVincenzi said STAR was hoping to attract some major donors “who might want to put their name on a building,” she said the organizers believe the project needs grassroots support and the smaller donations that come with it if it will truly be a success.