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Pools’ splashy opening slowed

Wed., March 25, 2009

Cannon, Shadle first – in August

Spokane’s aggressive construction schedule for its new pools, coupled with record December snowfall, will leave the city without public outdoor pools for much, if not most, of the summer.

The Spokane Park Board last year opted to move forward on its six new swimming pools at once – tearing out all five previous pools starting last fall – rather than staggering construction. That strategy appeared to pay off as the design process was ahead of schedule. Construction, however, was delayed by the harsh winter.

Carl Strong, Spokane’s aquatics supervisor, said the city hopes A.M. Cannon and Shadle pools will open in August. He said other pools likely would open after that. Spokane’s pools usually open in June.

Todd Marsh, head coach of Spokane Area Swimming, said the parks department shouldn’t be criticized for pushing ahead aggressively rather than staggering construction.

“My stance on it is we’re just extremely excited that the pools are going to be built,” he said.

Still, the lack of pools is creating scheduling obstacles for his team and other swimming groups. Spokane Area Swimming typically uses Witter Pool in the summer. Marsh hopes to use Spokane Valley, Spokane County and YMCA tanks instead.

“It affects us tremendously,” Marsh said. “We’re just really scrambling to figure out where we’re going to swim this summer.”

A decision by the Spokane County Commission on Tuesday to buy the downtown YMCA could ease the pool shortage. Under a deal with the city, the old Y will be torn down in five years to return the land adjacent to the Spokane Falls to open space. The parks department, however, plans to operate the building and its pool as a recreation center.

Some who lead summer youth programs say they’ll find other activities for participants. But they add that the lack of outdoor pools is problematic for kids who need options for positive outdoor fun.

Shayna Tulley, youth services specialist for the N.A.T.I.V.E. Project, said the group’s summer program attracts about 100 kids a day. Last year, they used the A.M. Cannon Pool about twice a week.

“We’re looking around trying to find what other activity we might be able to take our kids to,” said Tulley, who suggested rock climbing as one possibility.

Tim Frye, program manager of the Northeast Youth Center, which serves about 400 kids in the summer, said with Hillyard Pool closed, the center may sponsor trips to other swimming spots, such as Liberty Lake.

“We always improvise,” Frye said.

The pools are being built with a park property tax approved by voters in 2007.

Rob Crow, a member of the city’s Park Bond Citizens Advisory Committee, said moving ahead on all the pools at once was made to “lock in the pricing and take advantage of the momentum.”

He added that he doesn’t regret the decision given the kind of delays that often affect government projects.

Not moving ahead on some of the pools could have meant that some neighborhoods wouldn’t have received their pools for a few years.

“You never know what could have happened to delay the other pools,” Crow said.

Jonathan Brunt can be reached at or (509) 459-5442.

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