Friday morning marked new beginnings for Pine Bluff's latest addition, Pine Bluff Aquatic and Multi-purpose Center, when Mayor Shirley Washington broke ground on the center's future resting spot at 400 E. 11th Ave.

The groundbreaking ceremony opened with the presenting of the flag by Watson Chapel High School's Color Guard, and the Pledge of Allegiance with the help of James T. Matthews Elementary students.

Washington took a few minutes to acknowledge everyone who had a helping hand in making the project a success, extending a thank-you to CDI Construction Co. of Little Rock, all planning committees, architects, Pine Bluff Chamber of Commerce Redcoats, and former and current City Council members, among many.

Washington also expressed thanks to the many contributors for the project, including but not limited to, Tyson Foundation, Waste Management, Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield, Smart Chevrolet, Nelson Architectural Group, and Go Forward Pine Bluff.

Plans for the new aquatic center have spanned the last three administrations, coming across the desks of former Mayor Carl Redus and former Mayor Debe Hollingsworth, both of whom were present to partake in the day's groundbreaking ceremony.

The aquatics center evolved from a proposed multi-purpose center that was approved by voters in 2011 as a part of the so-called “Penny for Progress” sales tax, and while many of the other projects from tax proceeds have been completed, actual planning and fundraising for the center did not begin until 2015.

The sales tax funds were never planned to cover the entire cost of a multi-purpose facility, and fundraising efforts were not as successful as city officials had hoped. A decision was then made to primarily focus on the aquatics center, which will feature some meeting space.

Sadler said CDI Construction, which has served as project construction manager for the aquatics center, has submitted what he called a GMP, or guaranteed maximum price, of $11,230,135 to complete the center. A bulk of the money will come from the 2011 tax, while Go Forward Pine Bluff has pledged $4 million in private funds for the project.

Construction is expected to take 480 days.

Washington described the project as “state of the art” and another step closer to building and restoring Pine Bluff.

After making her last closing remarks, Washington joined 19 other individuals, which included some of the project's architects and contractors, to break ground with 20 gold shovels to symbolize the start of something new.

The Pine Bluff Aquatic and Multi-purpose Center will house pools for competition and leisure, indoor and outdoor seating, sun deck, locker rooms and dressing rooms, as well as party rooms.