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On Your Side: Will new Moana pool ever get built?

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Chip Hobson has a dream: That one day an empty lot on Moana Lane will be transformed into a busy aquatic center for swimmers of all ages.

"I was a swimmer," Hobson explains. "I was a physical therapist. I understand the need and importance of aquatics for a community."

But dreams and reality are often two different things. Nearly a full decade after Sierra Nevada Community Aquatics launched its drive for a new public swimming pool to replace the old one, which was torn down on the same site, there has been little in the way of progress, at least that the public can see.

"It's been a long road," Hobson admitted during our recent interview. "It's been much more challenging than we would have hoped."

The challenges surfaced early on. SNCA launched its effort in the midst of the recession when fundraising dollars were hard to come by.

Now the economy is rebounding, but higher construction costs have boosted the project's price tag to about $15 million.

Meanwhile, tax returns obtained by News 4 show the non-profit only has $77,000 in the bank.

Hobson said those tax records don't tell the whole story.

"Those records are always public. We, through a community foundation, have a means of having other funds donated to us."

But Hobson declined to get specific about any fundraising. He says his group is now hoping the city of Reno will step in and agree to cover the maintenance costs, which could be upwards of $250,000 a year.

Without that commitment from the city, Hobson says many donors are hesitant to lend their support to the project.

"It has become clear that to be successful we need the city," he said.

While it's unclear at this point what kind of commitment the city is willing to make, News 4 has learned the city council is expected to consider funding options for the pool in the near future.

The lack of any visible progress on the pool project has resulted in what you might call a turf war. The group that runs the soccer fields next to the pool site on Moana would like to expand and put that vacant land to use, on a temporary basis, until the pool gets built.

"I've been very public saying that when they get their money we will vacate," said Richard Jay, past president of the Moana Springs Expansion Project.

Jay, who led the effort to build those fields says local soccer leagues could use the extra room.

"On any given night we'll have up to 14 teams practicing here," Jay said. "And it is so tight."

But SNCA is not anxious to give up its rights to that land since it still envisions a pool being built there, some day.

"We do have some concern of what the public perception of even a temporary use would be," said Hobson.

For now, Hobson and his group have enough challenges on their plate. Finding the $15 million needed to build a community swimming pool. A decade later, the mission hasn't changed.

"We continue to work diligently, a lot behind the scenes to put all the pieces together."

Sierra Nevada Community Aquatics recently signed a three-year extension to its agreement with the city of Reno. If you would like to get involved or support this project, go to their website at sncaquatics.org.

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