Cullman city’s $14 million Wellness and Aquatic Center project has been under way for nearly a year, and construction has remained on schedule and within budget so far.

John Hunt, director of the city’s parks and recreation department, said the Aquatic Center is about 60 percent complete and should be open for business by April 1, 2009.

“We’re really happy with the schedule,” Hunt said. “Once we get this thing up and operational, it’ll be something the whole community can be proud of.”

Hunt said once the facility opens, the parks and recreation board estimates it could cost $1 million a year to operate.

“The first couple of years will be tough ... but what we’ll try to do is break even on cost,” Hunt said. “Hopefully membership will take care of expenses.”

General contractor McCrory Construction is responsible for building the center, which was designed by architectural firm Lose and Associates from Nashville. Hunt said it was evident the construction company has stayed within budget since the project has needed only one change order over the last 10 months.

“We’re real proud of that,” Hunt said. “That tells me the architect did a real good job of estimating cost.”

Construction crews worked tirelessly through damp mud and unrelenting heat Thursday in an attempt to seal off the building from the elements.

“Right now they’re trying to get everything dried in ... which means all the roofs are basically furnished and all the windows are in,” Hunt said. “Once that’s done, we’ll be able to get things painted.”

After entering the unfinished building, Hunt almost immediately headed toward the gymnasium with a smile on his face.

“We’ve been running 48 basketball teams in one gym,” Hunt said. “This new gym will give us the opportunity for one high school gym and two recreational courts. It’ll offer the opportunity for youth sports growth.”

Hunt then pointed out the walking track suspended above the gym.

“I think a lot of people will come up here just for walking,” Hunt said.

In a large hallway down from the gym, Hunt checked out the facility’s unfinished temporary daycare center.

“It’ll keep small children up to two hours,” Hunt said. “That’ll give parents a chance to work out.”

Also down the hallway, which passes by entrances to administrative offices, there will be a cycling room for spin-class enthusiasts, a security office and the fitness area.

“We’ll have 15,000 feet of nothing but fitness,” Hunt said.

Nearby are two large locker rooms, each housing a sauna and showers.

Farther inside the facility is a six-lane competition pool, which is connected to a teaching a therapeutic pool. Hunt said the therapeutic pool will spin water in one direction, which guests can use for exercise.

“When you walk against it, you’re exercising,” he said.

Beyond the indoor pools are large glass doors that lead to the center’s main outdoor pools.

“Outside is a 25-yard pool where we’ll be hosting a lot of swim meets,” Hunt said.

Hunt said the Alabama Recreation and Parks Association state swimming and diving competition has already agreed to hold their 2009 event at the Aquatic Center. Approximately 1,200 swimmers are scheduled to attend.

Next to the competition pool is a unique pool designed strictly for play for children and adults. The pool, which has already been dug and cemented, will feature zero-depth entry and water slides.

“This is going to be the money-maker,” Hunt said.

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