The city of Spokane is about to pull the plug on 47 years of swimming history.
Shadle Park’s indoor pool – where generations of swimmers learned their strokes and raced back and forth – is to be torn down starting in April.
On March 16, the Spokane Area Swimming club held its last intramural meet there with about 80 children of all ages showing up.
“It’s going to be sad to see it gone,” said Emri Moore, 13, a member of the swim club.
Jan Thompson, a 1977 graduate of Shadle Park High School, was there to watch her daughter, Maggie, and help coach the swimmers.
She said she is upset that the city has failed to maintain the pool and is closing it without a replacement.
The Shadle pool is being closed, in part because of age but also because Spokane Public Schools wants to use the land for its expansion project at Shadle Park High School.
Parks officials have been talking about building new swimming pools, but any proposal would have to go to voters for approval of funding through additional property taxes. City Councilman Bob Apple, who sits on the Park Board, said any measure is not likely to appear on the ballot until 2008 at the earliest. The mayor and City Council may be asking voters this fall to extend a property tax increase that was approved in 2005 for two years. There may be reluctance to place two city property tax measures on the same ballot, Apple said.
Spokane Area Swimming coach Todd Marsh said loss of the Shadle pool means his swimmers will have to crowd into two YMCA pools in Spokane and Spokane Valley for practice and competition. “This has been our main facility,” he said. “We are hoping we can work through it.”
The Shadle indoor and outdoor pools opened in September 1960 following voter approval of a citywide pool bond issue. The two pools together cost $272,000 at the time. The indoor pool is 25 yards long, about half the size of an Olympic-class competition pool, which is 50 meters long.
The future of swimming in the city remains up in the air.
In December 2005, an Aquatics Citizens Advisory Committee recommended construction of an indoor aquatics center adjacent to Albi Stadium, replacement of Comstock Pool, refurbishing of other city pools and construction of spray features at neighborhood parks.
The idea was controversial immediately. Residents of the Comstock area organized a protest against any plan to shut that pool, and the recommendation of building an aquatics center at Albi has been criticized because it would not be centrally located in the city.
An aquatics center likely would charge admission fees for all users, including children, who for years have been able to swim free during Spokane summers.
At the same time, Councilman Al French proposed building a large community center with as many as four swimming pools in Franklin Park adjacent to Division Street. But French’s idea has gained little momentum.
In the meantime, the Park Board has referred the issue of new swimming pools to a team of consultants, who have been asked to come up with an aquatics master plan. The consultants are Counsilman-Hunsaker, based in Los Angeles, and ALSC Architects of Spokane.
Shadle Park’s outdoor pool was closed in 2005. It had been repainted and its joints were recaulked following approval of a 1999 park bond issue.
Pools typically have a 25- to 30-year life, so the problem facing Spokane swimmers has been coming for a long time, Marsh said.
Thompson said the city should consider improving Liberty Park’s pool as an indoor facility, in part because it is located along Interstate 90 and could become an important location for competitive swimming events.
“It would be wonderful to have an indoor 50-meter facility,” she said.
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