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Thompson seeks aid for wading pool MLK Park project would be finished

Anthony M. Masiello was being asked today to include in his final capital budget as mayor of Buffalo a "parting gift" toward completion of the wading pool in Martin Luther King Jr. Park.

"Even $1 million," said Masten Council Member Antoine M. Thompson, who planned to bring with him the latest drawings by Wendel Duchscherer Architects & Engineers.

Thompson reviewed Tuesday the status of Phase II of what is being touted as the largest outdoor wading pool in New York State. With a diameter of 540 feet, the pool is being resurrected after many years of neglect.

"We were told there could never be water in that pool again without 30 to 40 lifeguards on site," Thompson said. "But we're going to get as much water into that pool without needing more than one or two lifeguards. We're looking at low maintenance and low overhead."

So far, more than $1 million has been invested in Phase I. The money was raised through the Coalition to Save Martin Luther King Jr. Park, Thompson's office, the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy and the Martin Luther King Jr. Park Steering Committee.

Thompson said Phase II -- adding water features, lighting fixtures and an ice rink -- will cost between $2.5 million and $3 million. After showing the design to Masiello, he said, he will show it to county and state agencies and foundations that might contribute money. M&T Bank has pledged $100,000 in a matching grant, he said.

"We hope to raise the money over the next several months and begin construction within a year," Thompson said. "We hope to open it next year."

City officials said that since the completion of Phase I last year, public use of the pool has dramatically increased.

But the project continues to be controversial. The computer-coordinated spray and splash pad is the centerpiece of Phase II, and critics are upset because the lighting system hasn't worked.

"I'm not interested in talking about Phase II until Phase I is working properly," said Samuel Herbert, vice chairman of the Coalition to Save Martin Luther King Jr. Park. "Those lights could have been on all summer . . ., especially for the Juneteenth Festival and the Pine Grill Reunion. This is the beacon of life for the new East Side of Buffalo."

Thompson agreed.

"It's kind of like a cake without the candles," he said. "The lights will be fixed come Friday."

e-mail: acardinale@buffnews.com

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