By Lyra Bordelon
Despite the recent installation of a steel superstructure for the upcoming Greenbrier Valley Aquatic Center, an update from the organizers from Sunday, Feb. 7, detailed the impacts of COVID-19 market changes on the project. This includes construction delays and the need for an additional $600,000 in fundraising before the project can be completed.
Although planned as a live event initially, a heavy weekend snowfall turned the Greenbrier Valley Aquatic Center’s Drive-In Celebration into an exclusively online event. Organizers Jamie Hamilton and TAG Galyean explained the current outlook of construction, and noted much of the groundwork is already completed.
“So what you see now, if you go out and take a look, … is the high-roof steel structure,” said Galyean. “This is the structure in which the pool on the east end of that is the competition pool, on the west end [are] the recreation pool and the therapy pool. The next thing that will happen, if the weather allows us to start this week, is the high-roof area will begin to be roofed. … It’s on site, ready to be paid for and erected.”
Despite the positive progress, the need for more fundraising was also announced.
“COVID has created a number of challenges and the cost increase of a lot of things is right at the top of that list,” said Hamilton. “The projections our board has made now, thinking of every possible conceivable expense this project will face at this date and beyond, we’re looking at about a 13 percent cost increase relative to what we originally expected. … That is equivalent to about an $800,000 increase in what we expect this facility to cost.”
Of this needed $800,000, about $220,000 has already been raised as a result of calls to private investors. The newly announced Enhancer program is a potential solution to raising the rest.
“We are introducing our Enhancer program,” Hamilton explained. “We had Founder, Closer, and now Enhancer. … Essentially, our founders and naming partners contributed the first $3 million to get this off the ground, our closers represented the last $3 million, and we believe the enhancers will now tackle the last $800,000 to make sure that we get this across the finish line and do this exactly the right way.”
Gaylean also noted the increased costs are a direct result of the pandemic.
“Quality was not reduced in order to contain costs,” Galyean said. “We were only looking for redundancy and efficiency and contribution. What we’re building is state of the art – water quality, air quality will be as good as anyone knows how to do it.”
The COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on the project not only included the increasing costs of construction materials, but also delayed the start of the project.
“This process, of course, started in March  and we were as surprised as everyone else with the environment we were dealt to work in with COVID,” Galyean said. “What happened is we have engineers coordinating structural and civil engineering issues and they’re working from home. We had construction workers that just were uncomfortable working for the first 60 days [of the pandemic]. That delayed the start of site work. … We had a delay to starting. We are moving at a slower pace than you would in a normal environment, and you are experiencing delays in receiving materials and increased costs of certain materials.”
Despite the setbacks, the steel structure is currently coming together and each of the contractors are preparing to jump in.
“Since our last meeting, we’ve completed all of the construction documents, all the required permits, and we’ve committed to building the aquatic center,” Galyean said. “There are five prime contractors, it’s a very experienced and first class team. … The architectural and engineering side is being handled by Crabtree, Rohrbaugh & Associates’. … The site and civil engineering work by Terradon, …. Site construction by Lynch Construction, … foundations and general construction by Radford and Radford. … Steel erection is by Sons and Seebert. They’re running the job at this particular moment. … Once the building is contained, Greenbrier Electric and Southern Air will begin their work inside of the building.
According to Galyean, “with the pace that we’re on,” the Greenbrier Valley Aquatic Center will open sometime in early September. This would also include interviewing for staff positions sometime in July of this year.
Hamilton and Galyean both thanked the community for it’s ongoing efforts in creating the recreational, therapeutic, and competitive swimming center.
“As much as we were excited to have you for a drive-in event, we’re excited to have you,” Hamilton said. “… A big part of today is to celebrate everyone who has been so instrumental in making this happen. Many of you have been supporters and followers way back to the folks that got naming opportunities in the Founder program. … It is amazing to me that people were willing to support what was essentially an idea.”
To keep up with the latest from the Aquatic Center, follow the Mountain Messenger and the Greenbrier Valley Aquatic Center on Facebook.