aquatic water

LEWISBURG — A lively, informative question-and-answer period capped off the latest update on an aquatic center project now on the drawing board in eastern Greenbrier County.

Having begun as a collaborative effort among TAG Studio and Greenbrier East High School’s architecture, engineering and business students, the proposed 22,400-square-foot Greenbrier Valley Aquatic Center will be situated on Fairlea land donated by the State Fair of West Virginia. The facility is designed to include three state-of-the-art pools, as well as exercise, party and senior club rooms, a kitchen, changing and shower rooms, a splash dish for children and an outdoor concession stand.

“This is a very popular idea,” said TAG Galyean, the driving force behind the project, speaking to a crowd of more than 50 people gathered in Lewisburg’s Greenbrier Valley Theatre Monday evening.

“I think it’s doable,” Galyean added. “But it will take the entire Greenbrier Valley community to do it.”

During the eight months since the project’s public unveiling, organizers have collected cash and commitments totaling nearly $2.3 million from more than 150 donors. Total cost of the center’s development (including construction) is projected to be $6 million.

Galyean said that his goal is to build the public facility with no debt, but conceded, “I would borrow money against commitment of funds.”

Some of the larger donations — such as the $1.5 million pledged by the Peyton Foundation for the center’s competition pool — will come in two or three annual installments rather than a single payment.

In addition to Galyean and his wife, Annabelle Galyean, others guiding the project forward are insurance executive Tom Greenstreet, veterinarian and State Fair board member John Wilson and Jan Hall, the center’s part-timer promoter.

The preliminary schedule for developing the center calls for entertaining engineering proposals this spring, with construction bids to be let in January 2020. If all goes according to plan, construction would begin in spring of 2020. Opening day would occur in April of that year.

“Spread the word is what we really need today,” Galyean told Monday’s assembly, encouraging one and all to “lobby your town” to rev up support for the project in the target area — Greenbrier, Monroe, Summers and Pocahontas counties.

In response to questions from the audience, Galyean said the estimate of $734,149 a year in ongoing expenses for the aquatic center, once completed, comprises equal parts operations costs and labor costs. The projected annual revenue of $824,850 would largely come from family memberships, priced at $700 a year, he said. That figure compares favorably, Galyean said, to the $800 cost of a family membership at a similar facility in Low Moor, Va., where many Greenbrier Valley residents now go to swim.

Galyean said he believes the Greenbrier Valley facility will be able to sell 1,000 family memberships and — when combined with individual memberships and day passes — will be able to see a $90,000 surplus each year with which to build a capital fund.

Those individual memberships, day passes and scholarships, which are already built into the center’s proposed budget, will result in increased community participation, Galyean predicted.

“We think this thing can be affordable for everybody,” he said.

Asked by a man in the audience if the group pushing the aquatic center had tried to obtain government funding for the project, Galyean said, while a Greenbrier County Commission Arts and Recreation grant would be welcome, his organization has no interest in partnering with a government entity.

“This started in part to try to prove that high school students could do what government couldn’t,” Galyean said.

Longtime public swimming pool proponent Jeff Jeffus suggested that organizers look into obtaining space in a newspaper for an eye-catching graph that tracks the fundraising endeavor, much in the same way the West Virginia Daily News prints a thermometer to demonstrate the progress of the annual Penny Pitch drive at Christmastime.

Saying donations are updated regularly in a Greenbrier Valley Aquatic Center (GVAC) newsletter that is distributed to around 600 people via email, Galyean said the group’s immediate priority is hiring a general manager. Once hired, that individual will be tasked with attending to details surrounding the fundraising effort, he said.

The general manager will be one of five full-time employees at the GVAC, as it is currently structured. The position will pay around $60,000, plus benefits, Galyean said. A full job description can be found on the aquatic center’s website, gvaquaticcenter.com.

Local businesswoman Shirley Runyon suggested that, instead of focusing on employing a general manager, the GVAC group should concentrate on hiring someone versed in coordinating a capital campaign.

Galyean countered that by saying the job description posted for the general manager actually includes three job descriptions, which may be combined for the right candidate or split up among multiple employees, if needed.

“If I was applying for this, I’d want all three jobs,” Galyean said with a chuckle.

But he acknowledged that the fundraising component of the position is of paramount importance in the near future. Galyean hopes to fill the post during the first quarter of this year.

Jeff Jeffus’s wife, Annie Jeffus — who is also a public pool activist — suggested that Galyean and other organizers hold a series of informational town meetings across the region the GVAC will serve.

Galyean said that sounded like a good idea, noting he would “put something together” to present that would increase interest in the project in surrounding communities.

For additional information about the GVAC, visit gvaquaticcenter.com.

Inquiries about donations should be directed to Galyean at 304-647-3520. Donations may be made to GVAC - Lewisburg Foundation, P.O. Box 1755, Lewisburg, WV 24901 or delivered to 674 Church St., Lewisburg.

— Email: talvey@register-herald.com

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