Bay Area Athletic Club has thrown its hat into the ring in order to be considered as a partner for the construction of a proposed aquatic center that has provided disagreements with trustees on how large such a facility should be.

Trustees were presented with a third option to the proposed multipurpose athletic facility, where the aquatic center would be housed, that has proven to be more costly than the district had expected. An indoor practice field for baseball, football and band is also included in the plans.

The facility, at the moment, is estimated to cost more than the $2.3 million the district had originally budgeted for as part of the district's 2007 bond election. During the last few meetings on the subject of the athletic facility, trustees have received price estimates up to $4.5 million.

Option C, as presented by Paul Pilarczyk with Naismith Engineering, is the least costly of the three options that have been presented to school board members, with an estimated price tag just under $3.1 million.

It does away with two concrete apron areas on the indoor practice field in favor of using the field's synthetic turf to cover that area instead. Also, the aquatic center would have an eight-lane pool, but no capability for diving, Pilarczyk said. It would be feasible to add a diving portion to the design, he added, but it would add an additional $147,000 to the project's cost.

The aquatic center would also use a combination of gas heaters and heat pumps to warm the pool, Pilarczyk said, and would most likely be in use during the winter months. However, any aquatic facility would require maintenance an upkeep, which could cost the district anywhere from $61,000 to $87,000 annually, depending on the chemicals used and whether a pool cover is installed.

After lengthy discussions over whether the maintenance costs could be lowered somehow, superintendent Arturo Almendarez raised an option that he had proposed at an Aug. 17 school board meeting. It would entail the district partnering with the Bay Area Athletic Club in order to build an aquatic center at the athletic club, which is located on Northwest Boulevard near Calallen High School.

Almendarez said he has spoken with Rome Gregorio, president of the athletic club, about a potential partnership with the district. The possible deal would require the district to pay about $1 million for the pool's construction at Bay Area, with the option to allow for elementary school students to have swim classes, dual swim meets and practice time for high school students.

The pool would be paid for by the district, but maintenance and upkeep would fall solely on the shoulders of the athletic club, Almendarez said.

"I'm just putting it out there that that is an option," he said. "I want this pool, please don't misunderstand me. I just worry about the maintenance upkeep."

At least two trustees, Paul Peeler and Karen Karagas, said they thought the idea warranted further discussion and looking into, if only to provide the deficit-facing district with an option to reduce maintenance costs without cutting back on the facility.

However, other trustees felt the idea could say to the taxpayers who voted for the bond's passage in 2007 that the district was trying to change what was approved. Trustee Tammy McDonald said the district should have informed voters about the maintenance costs in 2007 if they were going to be such a concern.

"That should have been done on the front end, before they voted," McDonald said.

She also questioned what would happen to any potential contract between the club and school district if the athletic club were sold to a new owner.

"If it's done right, (the contract) is binding," Peeler responded, with Almendarez adding that the aquatic center would likely revert back to the school district if such an occurrence should arise.

Trustees have suggested shortening the practice field in order to give more room to the aquatic center, but Almendarez has opposed that measure.

After the meeting, Gregorio said he wants to help the district and its students with the cost of maintaining the facility.

"It just makes fiscal sense, in this economy," Gregorio said, adding that the City of Corpus Christi's Natatorium is a product of a public/private partnership similar to what he is proposing.

"It's not unheard of," he said.

Trustees did not take action on the item, tabling it instead until their next scheduled meeting in September.