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County commits $250,000 in ARPA funds to Waverly Aquatic Center project

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Waverly Aquatic Center Rendering 2

ONE STEP CLOSER: The Waverly Aquatic Center project has raised nearly $5 million, after securing a $250,000 donation from the Lancaster County Board of Commissioners last week. The city received bids from four construction firms for the project, with the lowest bid coming it at $6.4 million. (Image courtesy of Lamp Rynearson).

LINCOLN – The future Waverly Aquatic Center continued a fundraising hot streak last week when the Lancaster County Board of Commissioners voted June 30 to give $250,000 to the project. 

The money will come out of the county’s federally allocated American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, which totaled $61.5 million. County Commissioner Rick Vest, whose district includes Waverly and the northeast part of the county, said the commissioners’ intention has been to spend its ARPA funds on projects that will have long-lasting impacts, such as a recent effort to extend broadband access to the county’s municipalities outside of Lincoln.

“The (current) Waverly pool lasted 50 years, and this one may have the same lifespan,” Vest said. “We just feel like it’s a project that is going to give great benefit to people for a long time to come.”  

Waverly City Administrator Stephanie Fisher and Waverly City Council Member Abbey Pascoe appeared before the county board at its weekly meeting on June 30 to explain why the pool is necessary and some of the fundraising barriers the project faces. 

They told the board that the current pool is lacking in ADA accessibility, age-specific amenities and capacity, which presents a challenge as Waverly continues its considerable growth. The new aquatic center, which had recently been estimated to cost $5.7 million, would double the current pool’s capacity from 250 to 500 people.

Fisher also mentioned functionality issues at the pool stemming from its age.

“One of the slides has a garden hose duct taped to it so that water is going down the slide,” Fisher said. “We are at mission critical right now.” 

The city released the aquatic center project for bids in early June as concerns mounted that donors would be less inclined to donate to a project that appeared to be stalled. Soon after releasing the project for bids, Horizon Bank of Waverly announced that it would match donations to the aquatic center up to $50,000. Pascoe said that initiative had raised about $10,000 so far. 

Pascoe, who is also the president of the Greater Waverly Area Foundation Fund (GWAFF), explained to the county board that GWAFF and the city have been raising funds for the project since 2018, totaling close to $4.6 million so far, through donations and the city’s $3.5 million bond issue that voters approved in 2020. 

Fisher said the city received bids in late June, with cost estimates ranging from $6.4 million on the low end to $8 million on the high end. 

“So that leaves us with a little bit of a gap,” Fisher said. 

Fisher said the county board’s involvement with the project started after Vest attended a recent Waverly Chamber of Commerce meeting and told Fisher the county might be able to contribute to the fundraising efforts.  

After a brief discussion, the county board voted 5-0 to approve an interlocal agreement to give $250,000 to Waverly for the aquatic center project.

“This is a quarter of a million dollars,” Fisher said after the meeting. “That’s absolutely monumental to a project like this.”

Commissioner Sean Flowerday said that he thinks the future of tourism in Lancaster County is in family-oriented projects and public facilities like the aquatic center, and he said its development would mesh well with recent improvements at the nearby Lancaster Event Center. 

“I think (the aquatic center) will synergize well with that,” Flowerday said. “I think it’s a great effort.”

Vest said that based on its design, the aquatic center could draw guests from throughout the county and perhaps neighboring counties, too. 

“When you look at this design, I’m genuinely excited to have a pool like this inside of Lancaster County,” Vest said. “I’m confident it will draw people from all over the county and even beyond the county line, so it’s just a very worthwhile investment from my point of view.”

Fisher and Pascoe said GWAFF’s and the city’s fundraising efforts will continue – they hope to receive a grant from Nebraska’s Civic and Community Center Financing Fund that could total up to $375,000, though they’ve been unsuccessful in two previous applications for the grant. Lancaster County Board Chair Deb Schorr said the county would be open to providing a letter of support for Waverly’s grant application. 

Fisher said the city hopes to select a contractor for the project at the July 12 Waverly City Council meeting, with construction starting as soon as possible. Their hope is the aquatic center will be open by Memorial Day 2023.

Pascoe also said Horizon Bank’s matching grant initiative is ongoing, and a disc golf fundraiser tournament is planned for August in Waverly’s Wayne Park. 

If the rest of the money cannot be covered through fundraising efforts, Fisher said the City of Waverly may need to contribute funds from its budget, though the council has not discussed that possibility in depth. 

Sam Crisler is a reporter for The Waverly News. Reach him via email at


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