September 1, 2010 in City

County parks chief urges pool closure

Facility, aquatic centers draw fewer users
By The Spokesman-Review
 
Visits down

The Southside Family Aquatic Center’s 29,898 visits this year were down almost 46 percent from its 55,322 peak. The Northside Family Aquatic Center’s 18,327 visits this year were off 51.5 percent from its peak of 37,783.

Spokane County’s Holmberg swimming pool would close indefinitely under a plan presented to commissioners Tuesday.

Parks Director Doug Chase said Holmberg pool, at 9615 N. Wall St., was little-used this year and needs major repairs to operate safely.

“The bottom is falling apart,” Chase said. “It’s literally coming up in chunks and pieces.”

Crumbling cement has exposed a pipe that needs to be replaced, he said.

The repairs are estimated to cost $93,500 to $113,500, but the pool had only 6,837 visits this summer – mostly for swimming lessons.

Holmberg attendance was down 33 percent from last year, reflecting what Chase said is a worrisome trend at all the county’s aquatic centers.

The Northside Family Aquatic Center, at 18120 N. Hatch Road, “is where we saw just a huge hit,” Chase said. “Holmberg, I can’t say that I’m surprised, but I’m very concerned with what’s going on up north.”

Precipitously falling attendance at the Southside Family Aquatic Center, at 3724 E. 61st Ave., started leveling off this year, but the Northside decline was unabated.

Northside opened in 2006; Southside, in 2008. Attendance at both peaked in 2008 as a $43 million project to rebuild six Spokane municipal pools was getting under way.

Southside’s 29,898 visits this year were down almost 46 percent from its 55,322 peak. Northside’s 18,327 visits this year were off 51.5 percent from the center’s peak of 37,783.

Chase said the county aquatic centers still have more amenities than city pools, such as concessions and deck furniture, but the renovated city pools have sapped much of the county’s advantage.

Heavily subsidized admission prices at the Spokane pools – $1 for kids and $2 for adults – “are killing us,” Chase told commissioners.

He proposes to reduce prices at the county’s Northside and Southside Family Aquatic Centers from $6 to $4 next year for users 6 and older, and from $3 to $2 for children 3 to 5. Younger children swim free.

Chase said he hoped the lower prices would attract up to 20 percent more swimmers, but the pools’ general fund subsidy may be need to increase from 40 percent to 44 percent.

Chase also proposed a 139-foot, $200,000 water slide at Northside to make it competitive with Spokane’s newly renovated pools.

Southside already has a slide, and Northside was supposed to have one but ran short of construction money.

Chase said he’s asked for the slide every year since Northside opened, “but the stars just have not aligned for me yet.”

He said he doesn’t expect that to happen next year, either.

Also, county commissioners unanimously approved a $70-an-hour consulting contract with recently retired Undersheriff Greg Conner, who is to perform internal affairs investigations for the Sheriff’s Office.

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