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Wave Aquatics creates plan for Eastside Aquatic Center, needs location and funds | Video
Wave Aquatics isn’t asking to build their proposed $20 million Eastside Aquatic Center.
“We’re going to take the lead and accomplish this goal,” said Wave Aquatics Director Tyson Wellock at a public meeting. “We’re not asking someone to do this for us. We’re more than willing and, ideally, we’ll find partners. Whether that’s school districts or cities, whoever it may be -- hospitals -- it doesn’t really matter. But our goal is to get something done instead of stand around and watch these pools close and our community suffers as a result.”
On Jan. 7, members of the nonprofit Wave Aquatics held a public meeting at Lake Washington High School to address the state of public pools on the Eastside, noting the most recent controversy surrounding Juanita Pool’s fleeting future. To combat the high rate of declining public pools, Wellock presented a plan that his staff spent more than 1,300 volunteer hours on.
“Our biggest fear is that Juanita [pool] will come offline and there will be nothing coming online to replace it,” he said. “Then there will be this gap, the programs will ultimately go away.”
Wave Aquatics has operated the Juanita Pool at Juanita High School since 2009 when the Lake Washington School District stated they could no longer afford it.
Wave Aquatics club swimming began with 125 swimmers in 2008 but now there’s 250 using the Juanita and Redmond pools. With 800 student swimmers and around 100 master swimmers, a water polo team, lifeguard training and health classes for seniors and others in the community. Wellock said they are completely “over subscribed.”
The Juanita Pool’s useful life is coming to an end with the expansion of the high school planned for 2017, and the fear of losing the programs and benefits the pool provides is in full swing.
“Juanita Pool is going to close within the next five years unless there’s a significant injection of capital into the infrastructure,” Wellock said. “This is regardless of whether the 2014 bond passes or not.”
He said pool infrastructure that isn’t regularly injected with capital, loses between $150-400,000 a year.
“Over 30 years, that’s $12 million and if you’re a school district or a city, the choice between subsidizing a pool to the tune of $150-400,000, or paying for more teachers or more cops or firefighters, that becomes not a really big question,” Wellock said.
But some, such as former Olympic breaststroke swimmer Rick Colella who trained at Juanita Pool before the 1972 and 1976 Summer Olympics, can’t imagine life without a public pool in a city with several miles of shoreline along Lake Washington.
“The most important legacy this pool has given is the generation of kids who went to swim in these pools,” Colella said at the meeting, noting he still trains there as a master swimmer. “The generation of families and kids who’ve swam in this pool has grown up and they continue to go there today.”
Last June, Wave Aquatics created the Wave Pool Committee consisting of 12 people, many with business backgrounds.
The committee spoke with officials from the city of Kirkland, the city of Redmond, the city of Bothell, Lake Washington School District, USA Swimming and Snohomish School District. They engaged with a law firm, The Pool Company Inc. and an architect to come up with around 20 different business models and three options for the Eastside Aquatic Center.
The committee ultimately chose the third and largest option because it would be able to accommodate current capacity and future growth.
“We need separate spaces. We need a space for teaching lessons, we need a space for therapy, water aerobics, senior swimming,” Wellock said. “And we also need a space for competition and training, to serve all the other communities that we already have.”
And what would be large enough to do all of that and still ‘break even?’ A 50 meter by 25 yard main pool with two 20 yard by 12 yard side pools.
The pool would accommodate two to three high school swim practices with diving to occur at one time, as opposed to one at a time at Juanita. And the two side pools would be open for a number of other programs.
But without 5 acres for the location, $20 million or a partnership the plan will stay just that -- a plan.
“Our biggest challenge is probably going to be the land, to be quite honest with you,” Wellock said. “Five acres of land in this part of our region is not cheap and it’s not easy. Finding something that’s suitable and is zoned properly is quite a bit of a challenge.”
The pool would require a 50,000-square-foot building with space for parking. And because Wave’s customers come from Mill Creek, Kenmore and as far south as Issaquah, Wellock said they’re not committed to putting it in Kirkland, even though he adds Kirkland is an ideal.
And because the price tag is rather large, especially for a nonprofit, Wave is requesting donations through a fundraiser and will only go the way of banks or Kickstarter as a last resort.
“That’s a lot of money, it’s a significant amount of money but it’s something that we feel we are able to accomplish if we all put our minds to it and work at it,” Wellock said.
They’ve raised about $28,000 so far.
And as talks with the city of Kirkland and Redmond and the Lake Washington School District have been encouraging, Wellock said there’s nothing concrete.
“The Council wants a pool to stay in the Kirkland area,” said Kirkland Mayor Amy Walen. “I think we’re committed to that. We added it to our work plan when it became clear the pool was going away at Juanita. We’ve put money behind it and we’re committed to being the lead agency putting some sort of partnership together.”
Hoping to lock down funding and figure out zoning in the next two years, Wave committee members plan to break ground in 2016 and have the facility finished by fall 2017.
“When we finally achieve this goal, we will have secured the future of swimming on the Eastside for the next 50 years,” Wellock said. “That’s a huge accomplishment.”
For more information or to donate toward the Eastside Aquatic Center, visit www.renewthelegacy.org or like “Eastside Aquatic Center” on Facebook.
The following video can be found at www.renewthelegacy.org.