March 13 2013 12:00 AM

Board tasks LCC president to find alternatives to closing pool

Tuesday, July 31 — Plans to turn Lansing Community College’s six-lane pool into a food court have been tabled for now.

At a LCC Board of Trustees meeting Monday night, college President Brent Knight unveiled his plan for $67 million worth of renovation projects on campus, which included the closing of the pool.

The board approved a $49.5 million bond that will pay for the majority of the projects.

Under Knight’s proposal, the pool in the Gannon Building would be reconfigured into a commons area featuring a food court and student services. The project would cost $18.3 million out of the total renovation funds.

Knight said the “old” pool facility is at the end of its “predictable lifecycle.” He said the “21st century” commons area would improve the perception of the school to potential students and help create a community vibe that would add to student success.

Over a dozen people during public comment disagreed with Knight’s vision and touted the value the pool adds to the community and how a food court is not a proper use of resources.

Richard Mull is an adjunct faculty member and teaches several aquatics courses at the college. He spoke during public comment and said replacing the pool with a food court filled with “fast foods” flies in the face of efforts to combat obesity both state and nationwide.

“Our governor talks about it, our president talks about it, unfortunately our president here doesn’t talk about it,” he said.

After listening to the pleas and complaints from the pro-pool faculty, students and community members, five of the seven board members approved the renovation budget but said Knight needed to go back to the drawing board to find “creative solutions” to keep the pool.

Trustee Deborah Canja said after the meeting that the “pool adds something to our community.”

“It adds value,” chimed in Trustee Robin Smith. “It’s worth taking the time to look at other options.”

The pool at LCC is the only one of its kind in downtown Lansing, said Margie Clark, dean of health and human services during the meeting. No other pools are available for both lap swimming and instructional courses, she said.

Following the decision, Knight said the school has two options: commons or pool. It can’t have both with the current budget. He said the existing cafeteria will be remodeled into classrooms as part of the renovations and to build an entirely new pool or cafeteria would mean added pressure on the budget. That would likely mean an increase in tuition, he said, which he doesn’t want to do.