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Land purchase under way for outdoor pool in Cherokee

Cherokee is one step closer to having an Olympic-sized outdoor pool following Tribal Council’s unanimous vote this month to purchase property for the project.

“We have an identified site with contract negotiations with those landowners,” said Jason Lambert, director of planning and development for the tribe. With the site nailed down, he said, “we can get into more specific due diligence and more specific planning in order to get to that hard construction.”

The 6-acre property is across from the old Cherokee high school in the Yellowhill community. Council agreed on a purchase price not to exceed $800,540. 

Money for the land had been allocated for about two years, with the pool being a topic of discussion for the past four or five years, Lambert said. However, the tribe hadn’t been able to get into the nitty gritty of planning before, as it didn’t know what constraints the site would present. With the property selected, they can now move forward. 

“There’s a lot of options,” Lambert said. It could be just a standard Olympic-sized pool, or the pool could include any number of play structures and “splash pads,” such as the classic mushroom tree with water flowing over top.

“Splash pads are what you’re seeing pop up in a lot of communities, which are interactive water features for, primarily, kids,” Lambert said. 

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The variety of construction possibilities leads to a variety of cost possibilities. Lambert expects the project will cost between $1 and $2 million to build, though nothing’s pinned down at this point. 

“That’s contingent on how much of the dollars actually go into the pool and the features versus the site work and the parking lot, restrooms, facilities for changing and pump rooms and all of those components,” he said. 

Though the tribe-owned Cherokee Life Fitness Center does house an indoor Olympic-sized pool for fitness center members, the Yellowhill pool will be the first public outdoor pool in Cherokee. 

“It’s just another extension of us being able to provide things for our membership that enhance recreation opportunities, enhance opportunities for our young people,” Lambert said. 

Lambert would also like to see it become an additional draw for tourists. 

“Depending on what the scope of it is and what we put in the ground, it could definitely attract tourists,” he said. 

Lambert expects to develop a more specific plan for the site within the next two months.

“It’s just a component that the community is interested in,” he said.

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