SC Johnson donates $6.5 million for aquatic center in Racine

At least one resident has doubts about the project
SC Johnson donates $6.5 million for aquatic center in Racine
Posted at 7:03 PM, Jul 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-21 10:08:48-04

Racine will likely be home to a new aquatic center thanks to a generous donation by S.C. Johnson, however, at least one resident has his doubts.

"The S.C. Johnson Community Aquatic Center raises the bar on our plan to revitalize Pritchard Park," said Racine County Executive Jonathan Delagrave.

Delagrave made it part of his 2017 budget to make some renovations to Pritchard Park. However, his plans were for some turf football fields and baseball diamonds.

"I saw a site with potential to become a cornerstone of Racine County youth sports," Delagrave said.

Now, the youth won't be the only ones enjoying the space now. S.C. Johnson CEO Fisk Johnson announced the $6.5 million donation Thursday in Racine. The facility will have two pools; a lap pool and an activity pool. The pools will total nearly 15,000 square feet of water surface.

It will include a zero depth entry, multiple slides, rope course, eight lap lanes, diving well, spray jets and aquatic play structure. So people of all ages will be able to enjoy the pool activities, especially families. Something S.C. Johnson hangs its hat on.

"As our company thrives, we want our communities to thrive with us," Johnson said. "That's particularly true for our home community of Racine, which we love so much."

"The S.C. Johnson Community Aquatic Center will enhance our quality of life by offering fun and health recreation activities for all ages," Delagrave said.

There will be plenty of opinions from people of all ages as well. Roy Sheller, 91, has lived in his home across the street from Pritchard Park for more than 50 years. He says, this news is great but he'll believe it when he sees it.

"If they got the money and want to spend it there, go ahead," Sheller said. "But I have my doubts."

Sheller still has a newspaper clipping from the 1980s. In it, it shows plans for a Pritchard Park par-3 golf course. It's something that obviously never panned out and Sheller feels this aquatic center could go the same route, despite it being funded entirely by S.C. Johnson.

"I'll just have to wait and see I guess," Sheller said. "But maybe I won't live that long now."

If Sheller can make it to next summer, the city says the community pool will be open to the public. The strip of homes along Ohio Street in Racine have been used to pristine views of the green space at Pritchard Park for decades so the change will be an adjustment, but a welcome one.

"This area definitely is in need of development," said local resident Bob Kruschke. "We don't have much in the way of a facility like that outdoors in Racine. We could really use it. I think it could be a strong positive if it's handled the right way."

Kruschke's biggest concern is with traffic. It's already pretty busy on Ohio Street with cars whizzing by. But in order for people to get to the proposed park, it will draw in more traffic at the entrance at Ohio Street and Pierce Boulevard, which Kruschke thinks could be a problem.

"I would be concerned a little bit about the proposed way to get in and out of the park for reasons of safety," Kruschke said. "With the one intersection here, it would take all the brunt of the traffic in and out. [But,] I think it's a good proposal."

Construction is expected to get under way this fall if the County Board votes for the proposal at its next meeting in August. However, Delagrave says he feels fairly confident it will pass.

The facility will be managed by the local YMCA and while prices of admission haven't been discussed yet, they anticipate they will be on par with similar facilities in the area.