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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Grab your swimsuit, the Spokane City Council just backed an expanded aquatics season

LaVae Cate, 13, center, battles for a rebound as youngsters play basketball at Liberty Park Aquatic Center on Aug. 15, 2017.   (Dan Pelle/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

The Spokane City Council signaled its support Monday for the city’s summer aquatics program, the viability of which has been hampered by the pandemic.

The council unanimously adopted a resolution Monday pledging to back Spokane Parks and Recreation with $220,000 for its aquatics program, which announced last month its 2021 season would be condensed without a financial boost.

The city’s six aquatic centers have never been a moneymaker for Spokane Parks, but its other programs usually bring in enough cash to offset the losses.

With COVID-19 limiting in-person gatherings, Parks’ revenues suffered through 2020. It now needs to look outside its own budget for funding to bolster the aquatic centers.

Without outside help, the aquatics season is set to run eight weeks instead of the usual 10, beginning in June. Time dedicated to open swim – when anyone can hop in the pool, for free – would be limited to one hour per week. The primary focus of aquatic centers would be on hosting learn-to-swim programs, private swim team rentals and paid adult lap swimming.

The $220,000 endorsed by the council will fund a full 10-week season with additional hours dedicated to open swimming.

Spokane Parks has worked with the Spokane Regional Health District to establish public health guidelines as it plans to reopen the pools, Parks Director Garrett Jones told the council.

Spokane County’s advancement into Phase 3 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s reopening plan, coupled with the funding pledged Monday, means Spokane Parks could substantially increase the aquatics program’s seasonal capacity from 14,000 up to 120,000 participants, Jones said.

The supplemental aquatics funding is likely to be pulled from the city’s portion of the American Rescue Plan, according to City Council President Breean Beggs.