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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane Parks and Rec asks for financial boost to support public pools

A swimmer dives off of one of the two diving boards in 2018 at the Hillyard Aquatic Center.  (TYLER TJOMSLAND)
A swimmer dives off of one of the two diving boards in 2018 at the Hillyard Aquatic Center. (TYLER TJOMSLAND)

The number of laps Spokane swimmers complete this summer may come down to two factors: personal stamina and financial support from the Spokane City Council.

The council is set to vote Monday on a resolution that would support an additional $220,000 in funding for Spokane Parks and Recreation’s summer swim season.

The city’s six aquatic centers will open with or without a financial boon. But given COVID-19’s impact on the Parks budget, parks officials have told council members they need help to support the level of service to which they aspire.

Under the current “foundational services” model planned by the parks department, the city’s six aquatic centers will open in June for a condensed season. Emphasis will be placed on learn-to-swim programs, adult paid lap swimming, and rentals for teams.

With funding from the City Council, Spokane Parks says it can expand pool hours dedicated to open swim, a block of time anyone can come hop in and take a few laps. Under the current plan, there’s only one hour set aside every week for open swim.

The funding could also allow for a regular 10-week season, rather than the truncated eight-week season under the current plan.

Spokane Parks announced last month that it would open city pools with limited capacity and public health protocols in place to limit the spread of COVID-19. (The city’s splash pads will not open under the current guidelines).

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have not been any documented incidents of COVID-19 transmission in treated pool water.

Youth swim lessons are expected to be about $50 for two-week, Monday through Thursday sessions that last 75 minutes, according to Parks spokesperson Fianna Dickson. As in previous years, scholarships will be available to offset the cost. There will also be free “swim clinics” that offer a shorter, less-involved overview of safety and swimming basics.

Open swim will still be free and open to all ages, but will likely require advanced registration to ensure capacity is not exceeded.

Even with the limitations inherent in a COVID-protocol season, Spokane Parks believes it could welcome more than 50,000 visitors to pools this year with a boost in funding from the city.

Despite their popularity, the aquatic centers have never been a moneymaker for the parks department. Instead, the cost of operating the pools is offset by the revenue generated by other programs, like recreational sports leagues.

The problem during the pandemic has been that many of those revenue-generating programs were canceled, leaving the parks department with little fiscal wiggle room to cover the cost of a robust aquatics season.

The resolution set for a City Council vote on Monday is not binding; instead, it is a symbolic pledge of financial support. The funding would likely come from the city’s portion of the federal American Rescue Plan, according to City Council President Breean Beggs.

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