The Tuscaloosa Park & Recreation Authority requested funding from the Tuscaloosa County Commission Wednesday for projects at Sokol Park and improvements to the pool at Bowers Park that could cost nearly $3 million.

At Sokol Park, PARA is requesting $1.3 million for renovations, primarily replacing light poles with updated LED lighting across six baseball fields. The switch to LED lights will allow for fewer poles, with lights covering a wider area.

Additionally, PARA has estimated they need $600,000 for paving parking lots at both sites, as well as another $100,000 for the demolition of the tennis courts at Bowers.

Gary Minor, PARA's Executive Director, said that they have requested funds from the City of Tuscaloosa as well.

"The City is committed to repaving, and building a turn lane at the north entrance at Sokol Park," Minor said. "Some nights we have hundreds of vehicles in that park, and it literally can take 30 minutes to get out of the park."

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For Bowers Park, Minor asked the Commission to consider a $270,000 allocation to repair the Olympic-size swimming pool in the facility. The pool was originally built in the 1990s and now requires a new liner and additional lighting for night.

Minor explained that the material that makes up the liner becomes soft overtime when exposed to chlorine, causing the pool to leak. The new lining will have a 10-year guarantee, he said.

The nearly $300,000 price tag also includes additional lighting, as Minor said it becomes difficult to see swimmers after dark, which will become a safety risk if they don't shut down the pool.

"When you fix that pool and get it up and running, it's still an old pool in a 30-year-old facility. It's a band-aid," Minor told The Thread.

Multiple commissioners questioned the longevity of such a temporary fix, although Minor said PARA had already started exploring a total replacement of the pool along with a major building renovation.

"Do we want to change that facility? Certainly we'd want to modernize it and make it a bit more kid and family-friendly, add a lazy river and some slides," Minor said.

"That's a lot to put into a 40-year-old pool," said Probate Judge Rob Robertson, who also chairs the County Commission. "There's not a lot of public pools left, and they're very high maintenance... But that pool gets used a good bit."

District 4 Commissioner Reginald Murray asked Minor to return to the next commission meeting in two weeks with an estimate for the cost of totally replacing the pool.

The Commission also approved a motion to solicit bids for the lighting improvements in Sokol Park. Robertson said he wanted to figure out more specifically how much this would cost before the commission makes any concrete funding decisions.

Minor told The Thread that PARA aims to get started on the paving projects in Spring of 2022, with the more extensive renovations coming later down the line.

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