TYLER, Texas — The Ornelas Health and Physical Education Building pool has been a long and beloved facility in Tyler. After 35 years, the pool is set to be demolished. The decision has residents torn about what other resources they’ll have once this one is gone.
Tyler resident Jay Crew said the pool has been a staple in the community for decades —serving everyone from student-athletes to those with disabilities and senior citizens.
“I have been swimming in that pool while taking water classes, also swimming classes, and lap swimming for about 10 or 12 years,” he added.
School administrators said they decided to demolish the pool because it wasn't being used enough.
Kim Lessner, Vice President for Operations, said, “We had 230 classes over the last five years. 40% of those had only three participants or fewer, which means we still have to pay for the instructor and all the costs that go with it.”
Construction has already begun and will continue throughout 2022. Once the $7 million project is all is said and done, the pool will be filled and transformed into a new band hall. The old band hall will become a dance studio and various other office and storage spaces will be built.
Other residents who don’t want to see the pool go said the space wasn’t advertised enough and there’s nothing else like it in town- a heated indoor pool more inclusive than those designed for competitive lap swimming.
School administration said they’re open to suggestions for future facilities on campus but right now, there isn't enough space or money to keep the pool.
Lessner said, “For the band and Apache Belles program, our dance academy is just doing phenomenal and we really needed to have more room to accommodate those students.”
Crew doesn't feel that one thing has to go in order to accommodate the other.
He said, “As wealthy as that college is and as caring as the people are in Smith County, I think that they could build them a building and maintain this pool facility for our community.”
The new health and physical education building is set to finish renovations by December 2022.