MURRAY — One of the most impactful relationships the Murray-Calloway County Park Board has formed in the past decade has been with the Murray Lions Club.
The two entities combined to produce the Lions Club Community Skate Park near the front entrance of Central Park and it is a facility that has been used extensively by children and young adults. Now, as the board tries to navigate the particularly rough current produced by its battle to resurrect the ailing Murray-Calloway County Pool, also inside Central, it appears the Lions Club is emerging from the shadows once again to lend a strong helping hand.
Monday night, Lions members attended the latest Park Board meeting, and said they are now joining the fight.
“We’re committed,” said Lions Past President Paul McCreary, who was accompanied to Monday’s meeting by current Lions President Collin Fitzgerald and Jim Gray, also a past president.
“I don’t think we’re here for input as much as we are here to keep our ears open, but we know the pool is an issue,” Fitzgerald said. “As a club, we are ready, willing and able to do everything we can to help in that endeavor. We’re not sure what that’s going to be yet, but we are glad to be here.”
The Lions’ presence was immediately noticed by Park Board member Rose Ross Elder, who said she is fully aware of how the Lions have spearheaded causes in the past.
“My experience has been that when the Lions Club gets involved, they get things done. They do! It’s their reputation,” Elder said.
“That’s why we’re here,” Gray immediately responded.
However, while Fitzgerald said the Lions representatives were present Monday more for listening than participating, there was one stretch where this was not the case. As Park Board Chairman Jason Lovett was discussing the latest news on the pool, including an update from the Myrtha Pools firm that was featured late last month during a special-called meeting at the pool, McCreary talked about an experience he once had in Illinois.
“I have a little bit of experience in replacing a pool, actually,” he said of how he was the president of his neighborhood’s homeowners association. “We had our pool blow up and we had a vinyl liner (similar to the one at Central) and we had to go through all of the public pool requirements and such. But the toughest thing we had to do was the bath house.”
Lovett discussed the Central bath house Monday and how Myrtha representatives said that it, more than likely, will have to be eliminated and rebuilt, regardless of which plan of attack it would execute, should it be the contractor that handles the job. The pool is closed for the second straight summer.
“The problem (with the bath house) is you have accessibility, you have return lines, there’s just all kinds of things. That’s probably going to be the one of the most expensive things, based on the conversations (Lovett) and I have had,” McCreary said, discussing the potential answer to this issue. “If there’s a way we can take this elephant and start to break up the pieces within the community … say, the Lions gets after the bath house and maybe we get Rotary or the United Way or whoever wants to step up and take some of these other pieces … we can get this done because if we had the entire community raise the money with our 501c3s, we’re going to be better than just having one organization doing everything.
“One of the things we did when we replaced that pool in Illinois was we had the contractor identify very specific pieces we had that we could keep. That really started to narrow the scope of what we had to do. Like I said, the bath house was a monstrosity, but at the end of the day, we couldn’t open without it.”
In his update Monday, Lovett said not much has changed on Myrtha’s end, other than the fact that it is now known that two ideas are being considered — renovating the existing facility or replacing it. He said Myrtha researchers are still formulating their plans and hope to have an estimate of the cost soon. Lovett said it is possible this could be known in as little as two weeks and a special-called meeting, similar to the one in late June at the pool, may be the means used for Myrtha to give a presentation.
Lovett also said that the board is talking with another pool firm — the Natare Corporation of Indianapolis. He said the board has worked with Natare in the past as it helped install the current liners of the three pools at the Central facility.
“They worked with a firm — JABCO out of Alabama — and I know when I say ‘liner’ some of you probably gasp on that, but keep in mind that the current liner is 18 years old and it was only supposed to last 15, so it did fairly well,” he said.
Along with the skate park — opened in 2014 but had its final ramps installed in 2019 — providing a daily place of recreation, it also is starting to host large events. In the fall of 2020, it was the site of the inaugural Pete3 Fest event that attracted about 150 people that day, marking the largest crowd for an event at the facility since the park opened.
That came after the Lions Club led a fundraising campaign that, over 11 years, raised $90,000 to result in the facility that exists today just beyond the center-field fence at Rickman Field.
“Who would have ever thought that we’d ever get the skate park, because that was far more money than we could have ever dreamed about,” Lovett said. “The Lions Club did it and they’re still doing it.”