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The wait continues for public indoor swimming pool: SCCC fitness center still stalled a year after groundbreaking

A public indoor swimming pool for North Fork residents remains elusive. Stock photo: Fotolia

It’s been a year since Suffolk County Community College held groundbreaking ceremonies for on its fitness facility at the Eastern Campus, but construction has yet to get underway at the site since.

The project has been held up over the past year by building permits, according to Drew Biondo, director of communications at Suffolk County Community College. Now that the necessary permits have been acquired, construction should begin by late winter or early spring, Biondo said today.

“The county was backlogged with building permits,” Biondo said. “We’re putting the finishing touches on the design.”

The project will then go out to bid. “While we expect the bid process to move quickly, we’re expecting late winter early spring,” he said.

“Hopefully we’ll get a shovel in the ground very soon,” he added.

The $18 million facility, which will feature an Olympic-size swimming pool, aerobic and weight training rooms and a rock climbing wall, will be available for use by county residents and local governments, making it the first public athletic and fitness facility of its kind in the five East End towns.

It will also be the first indoor Olympic-sized swimming pool open to the public on the East End.

The 48,000-square-foot building will feature a floor-to-ceiling rock climbing wall, a strength and weight training equipment room, an aerobics room for spinners, yoga, dance and exercise classes and an eight-lane competition and diving pool with spectator seating.

The building’s 13,500-square-foot gymnasium will be able to accommodate a regulation basketball court, two volleyball courts and six badminton courts. There will also be a three-lane running/walking track around the perimeter of the gym.

The facility’s construction, estimated at $18 million, will be funded half by New York State and half by Suffolk County through a bond. Eastern Suffolk County lawmakers attempted to get the project moving for several years before it was finally given the green light in May 2014, when funding was secured from the Suffolk County Legislature.

“Most of the county’s population is in western Suffolk,” former County Legislator Jay Schneiderman at the groundbreaking ceremony last year. “It’s hard to convince the lawmakers to spend $18 million on the East End for a fitness facility.”

The Health and Wellness Center will be the first fitness facility on the Eastern Campus, which is the youngest and smallest of the college’s three campuses.

The facility will allow students on the Riverehad campus to fulfill the state education system’s physical education requirement. Unlike their peers on the Selden or Brentwood campuses, which each have their own fitness facilities, Eastern Campus students had very few options when it came to fulfilling their physical education requirement, which is required to graduate.

Local towns will be able to train lifeguards in the facility’s swimming pool. The Health and Wellness Center will also include new classrooms for the college’s nursing program.

County residents will also have access to the fitness facility through membership or one-time fees, which Schneiderman last year said would be “very affordable.”

Other plans for indoor pools remain uncertain

There is no public indoor swimming pool on the East End— something local residents have long been demanding. Several YMCA proposals that never came to fruition would have provided public indoor pools. There are currently two proposed fitness facilities — in addition to the one at the community college— that include indoor swimming pools in their plans: the Family Community Life Center in Riverhead and Sports East in Mattituck.

The Family Community Life Center proposal consists of 132 workforce housing rental apartments, plus a YMCA-type community center with a gymnasium, indoor pool, meeting rooms, classrooms, performing arts space, child care and senior care facilities — to be built on 12 acres of land currently owned by First Baptist Church of Riverhead next to the church on Northville Turnpike. The Riverhead Town Board in April adopted a new zoning use overlay district that would allow for the construction of the proposed plan. The developer has not yet filed an application to have the overlay district applied to the site.

The Sports East plan is for a 144,000-square-foot indoor sports facility on Main Road that would house a pool, four tennis courts, two pickle ball courts, a basketball court, multipurpose areas, a 7,000-square-foot fitness room, and yoga studios/classrooms. (Its exterior facilities would include tennis courts and a multipurpose turf field.) Developer Paul Pawlowski withdrew his site plan application in July, after town planning staff recommended that an environmental impact statement be required. The planning board in May had referred Sports East to the zoning board of appeals for a code interpretation regarding whether the proposed use came within the definition of “membership club.” The code interpretation application before the ZBA remains pending and is the subject of a public hearing next Thursday (Oct. 6) at 1 p.m. Sports East also has a special exception application pending before the ZBA, but that was put on hold following a public hearing in February, because the ZBA cannot act on the application until the planning board completes environmental review.

Pawlowski, who has said he’s already invested more than $100,000 in the review process, said yesterday he would not spend any more money on environmental review until he has a decision from the ZBA on the code interpretation. If the ZBA rules that the proposed uses for the site do not meet the definition of “membership club,” it cannot grant the special exception required by the town code for the project to move forward.

Katie Blasl
Katie, winner of the 2016 James Murphy Cub Reporter of the Year award from the L.I. Press Club, is a reporter, editor and web developer for the LOCAL news websites. A Riverhead native, she is a 2014 graduate of Stony Brook University. Email Katie