SplashDown could be repaired, reopened by mid-March

Repairs at SplashDown could be done by mid-March, reopening water slides at the Columbia Swim Center that have been closed for much of the season.

Columbia Association board members had voted in September for the Wilde Lake facility to be fixed as soon as possible. But Gregg Schwind and Phil Kirsch, who represent Hickory Ridge and Wilde Lake, respectively, say the project will not be done soon enough.

"I don't consider March 17 to be anything resembling 'as soon as possible' " Schwind said. "I'm very disappointed. We've essentially lost most of an entire SplashDown season because of this."

"I think it took too long," Kirsch said. "The winter time is the big time, and so we're missing out on all of that. The kids are missing out on the chance to go to SplashDown."

SplashDown's two flumes last operated in May and had been scheduled to reopen Sept. 17. But an August safety inspection revealed significant structural issues in the stair tower, which brings people up four stories to the flumes.

The steel beams that support the tower and have rusted at their bases will be repaired, as will the steel pans that hold the concrete stairs and are bulging, cracking and scaling due to rust, according to an inspector's report.

CA has put out a request for proposals for the repair work. Proposals are due by Jan. 6, with work expected to begin in the first week of February or as soon as a contract is signed and approved. CA officials want work to be done by March 15 and for SplashDown to be opened on the weekend of March 17.

"SplashDown season ends around or before when school gets out," said Rob Goldman, the association's chief operating officer. "We want to strive to get it open as soon as we can so the community can enjoy it for at least a couple months this year."

The project will cost an estimated $120,000, of which $30,000 will come from funds that had been set aside for remedial repairs at the swim center.

SplashDown does not make a profit and is not losing money due to it being closed, Goldman said.

The facility has been inspected annually for about the past four years, ever since an engineering survey found deficiencies in the tower and the two flumes. But with attendance declining and with the possibility of a large water park being constructed in Anne Arundel County (the park has not been built), the CA board opted several years ago to make the minimal amount of repairs needed to the stairs and tubes to keep SplashDown running safely, according to Goldman.

Schwind believes the inspection could have been done sooner and that there was too much time between when the CA board voted on Sept. 22 and bids being sent out on Nov. 30.

"We were way too slow," Schwind said.

"The harm is that we sell memberships to people, and one of the reasons that people, particularly families, buy memberships is that they can take their kids to SplashDown," he said. "We promised one thing, and we're not giving them that. I've had people asking whether we're going to give some of their money back."

Goldman acknowledged that this year's inspection could have been done sooner. CA officials said after the board vote, however, that it would take 120 to 180 days for design work, seeking bidders for the project and then completing the repairs, a timeline that would bring the anticipated reopening to as late as mid-March.

"There were numerous steps in the process," Goldman said. "CA staff worked hard to keep the project moving."

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