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What’s next for the Madison Rec Center? Mayor-elect weighs in

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MADISON, Ala. - The Madison City Council voted Monday night to reject a construction bid to build a $23 million recreation facility. Many schools were hoping this facility would become a reality because of swim practices and other athletic competitions.

Just because the project is currently on ice, doesn't mean it doesn't have a future. Its destiny now rests with the incoming Madison City Council and Mayor-Elect Paul Finley.

“Knocking on as many doors as we did, there weren’t enough people who really knew the entire extent of the project. So while I know some community and schools are disappointed, I think it was the right decision by council last night," said Finley.

He still plans to honor the commitment from the City of Madison to Madison City Schools, that a new pool for the district's swim teams is coming eventually. "I didn’t hear anyone last night that wasn’t for the pool," said the mayor-elect.

Finley isn't sure if the proposed $23 million rec center will stay as grand as originally planned.  “I don’t have a good answer for that until we can get in and really look at the numbers and determine how we can get our biggest bang for our buck, both for the city and the schools," he said.

He said moving forward, there will be more transparency from his office and the council on what shape the recreation center may take. “When big projects like this come out, folks want to hear the details. We’re a very smart community and they in turn can give their support. They understand the complexity, the good, the bad, there won’t be any ugly," said Finley.

As for quelling the concerns of the Madison swim community.  “I think what they’re expecting is a timetable that they can count on and we definitely want to bring that to them,” he says.

"It's Long Overdue"

During WHNT News 19's Madison Mayoral Debate, a senior on the James Clemens High Swim Team asked a question that many on her team had concerns about.

“The city made a commitment to build a swimming facility jointly with the school system November 2014. Where do you stand in honoring that commitment?" asked Annabel King.

The candidates answered, but King wasn't thrilled with the responses. “They say they plan to honor the commitment but no facts on how they were going to do it," she said.

The announcement that the construction bid was rejected brought out a range of emotions for Clemens swim coach Kate Wade.  “There’s frustration, there’s sadness, and there’s disappointment," she said.

Her team currently practices at the Dublin Pool that they share with the Bob Jones team. Unfortunately, the pool isn't big enough for their needs. “50 to 60 large bodies in the water at the same time," says Wade.

Both teams only have access to six lanes total.  “You’re on top of everybody’s feet. You can’t go hard, you can’t practice as well as a lot of us would like to," said King.

After fall break, their space restricts even more. The indoor pool at Dublin only has four lanes they have access to, which means both teams have to split up practices.  “Some of us who wake up or leave from our houses at like seven in the morning, don’t get back until eight. And that’s a long day especially when you have AP classes to do. Like I have AP Calculus. It just doesn’t work with our schedules," says King.

A new pool was first promised when King was a freshman, but now as a graduating senior, the dream has still not become a reality.