Pool meeting draws a crowd

October 1, 2008

By Jon Savelle

New facility in the Highlands is an option

Judging from the people who showed up at Tibbetts Manor Sept. 24, the future of aquatics in Issaquah is a hot topic.Some 30 residents plus city staff  members and consultants filled the manor’s large meeting room to talk about a feasibility study, now under way, that examines possible upgrades to Julius Boehm Pool, building a new pool or some combination of the two.

No decision has been made about any option; that will be the job of the City Council once the study and the public’s ideas have been compiled.

There are plenty of ideas to think about. Five options were described by Ken Ballard, whose Denver-based Ballard*King & Associates firm was hired to conduct the feasibility study and to determine the public’s preferences, and architect Jim Kalvelage, of OPSIS Architecture. The options range from minor upgrades to Boehm Pool, with lowest cost and limited benefit, to constructing a new, full-blown aquatics and fitness center.

Costs vary accordingly, all the way up to $41 million for the latter option. But these five are not the only possible choices, and other ideas may be considered.

At this stage, the team is considering:

Boehm Option 1, for $4.7 million plus an annual city subsidy of $226,000 — replace or upgrade windows, the reception desk, locker rooms and mechanical systems; install an elevator to the upper level; and replaster the pool.

Boehm Option 2, for $8.6 million plus a city subsidy of $200,000 — includes the above plus an expanded pool deck, an outdoor “sprayground” (water play area), an indoor recreation pool and additional parking.

Plateau Option 1, for $27.5 million and a city subsidy of up to $200,000 — build a new aquatic center on Pad 4 in the Highlands’ Central Park (still available from Port Blakely). Boehm Pool would close. The new pool would have eight swim lanes, 25 yards long; spectator seating for 300; a separate recreation pool with slides, water current and play features; an outdoor sprayground; locker rooms; special-event rooms; and entry, front desk, offices, guard room and a first-aid station.

Expansion of Plateau Option 1 (no cost given) — includes the above plus weight training; a group exercise room; a multiuse gymnasium; a community room and a kitchen.

Plateau Option 2, for $41.1 million and a city subsidy of up to $100,000 — would include Option 1 and the expansion, all at once.

Plateau Option C, for $32.7 million with a city subsidy of up to $651,000 — would include Plateau Option 1 and Boehm Option 1, resulting in two municipal pools.

As part of its research, Ballard*King conducted a telephone survey and a demographic and market analysis. The firm learned that the Eastside, as a whole, is underserved by aquatic facilities. And many of those now in use, like Boehm Pool, are nearing the end of their design life.

“There is simply not enough pool time on the Eastside, let alone Issaquah,” Ballard said.

Of those residents within the Issaquah School District who participated in the telephone survey, 70 percent said their main interest in a pool was for recreation. Competition was the second priority.

On their wish list of pool amenities, the respondents identified space for swim lessons, a separate recreation pool, ample swim lanes, and warm water for children and seniors.

Besides the pool itself, people also said they would use fitness equipment, classes, therapeutic programs and competition facilities.

Respondents were generally willing to pay for such services. Ballard found that only 28 percent were adamantly opposed to additional property taxes.

“That’s not too bad,” especially considering the ailing economy, he said.

After Ballard’s presentation, he asked the public for additional ideas. Among the suggestions were:

Make sure a new facility is comfortable for all ages, from children to seniors.

Provide for diving, and keep it out of swim lanes.

Recognize that Boehm Pool and any new facility would draw people regionally.

Include a coffee shop or snack bar.

Build a parking garage for Boehm Pool and the community center.

Design the pool to be a convertible, indoor-outdoor structure.

Build a 50-meter, Olympic-size pool.

Help fund the pool through a new King County park service district.

Maintain open hours longer each day and on weekends.

At the end of the workshop, participants were invited to vote for the options they preferred by affixing colored tape to display boards. The results now become further data for the feasibility study, which continues with another workshop Oct. 22.

For more information, contact pool recreation supervisor Jen Newton at 837-3355.

Reach Reporter Jon Savelle at 392-6434, ext. 234, or jsavelle@isspress.com.

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