Kirkland City Council narrows search for city pool location

A Seattle Synchro team swims in the Juanita High School pool. The city of Kirkland and Wave Aquatics are actively planning to build another pool before the Juanita pool closes in 2017. - File photo
A Seattle Synchro team swims in the Juanita High School pool. The city of Kirkland and Wave Aquatics are actively planning to build another pool before the Juanita pool closes in 2017.
— image credit: File photo

The Kirkland City Council unanimously approved a resolution on Jan. 21 that narrows down potential locations for a new aquatic center.

Resolution 5029 commits the city to further analyze building an aquatic center at Juanita Beach Park, North Kirkland Community Center or, as amended, South Norway Hill Park, however, the scope is not limited to these sites.

The resolution also calls for city staff to design a facility to serve the needs of the Lake Washington School District and the “broadest possible general public.” It will require staff to conduct outreach with the community and potential partners on possible facility components and site preferences.

An amendment called for a feasibility and cost analysis study on converting Peter Kirk Pool to year-round use as an interim solution if the city cannot finish the aquatic center by 2017, when the Juanita Aquatic Center is projected to close.

“It’s criminal that we use Peter Kirk Pool as little as we do,” said Deputy Mayor Penny Sweet, adding that she used to swim competitively at a dome pool in the 1970s.

The Park Board will provide a recommendation to the Council on facility preference by April 1.

Before the Council voted on the resolution, staff from the Parks and Community Services department and a member of the Sports Management Group presented multiple site options during the Council study session.

The sites were evaluated on their ability to hold a 38,500-square-foot aquatic center which could include an eight-lane lap pool with diving, a recreation pool with water slides, a spa/warm water therapy pool, seating for 250, and a multi purpose classroom; or a 72,000-square-foot aquatic center and recreation center. The larger facility could include one court gym, a fitness room, wood floor studio, community kitchen, child-watch activity room, multipurpose classroom, eight-lane lap pool with diving, recreation pool, spa/warm water therapy, seating for 250 and a special events room, among other features.

When researching the sites, staff considered whether one or both of the facilities would be able fit comfortably on each property.

Council members removed the Mark Twain Park, Snyder’s Corner Park and the former Albertsons sites from consideration due to challenges with size, accessibility and land acquisition.

But the north side of Juanita Beach Park, measuring 9 acres, the 5.5-acre North Kirkland Community Center property, and the 10 acres of trees at South Norway Hill Park were deemed viable options. They are all city-owned and large enough to accommodate both types of facilities.

Although theres challenges to each site.

The 2006 Juanita Master Plan would need to be revised for the Juanita Beach Park, and soil is not ideal.

The North Kirkland Community Center site is a tight fit and has a steep slope to the land, requiring a three-level recreation/aquatic center. A traffic signal and left turn lane would also need to be installed, making the North Kirkland Community Center the most expensive in terms of construction cost.

South Norway Hill, just north of the Kingsgate Safeway, is 10 acres of woodland and could be 15 if the city acquired adjacent property. Councilman Toby Nixon, who suggested the spot, said he believes the biggest challenges for this site is that it’s on the very northern edge of the city and it’s a wooded area and “Kirkland loves our trees.”

During the study session, Councilman Dave Asher voiced interest in putting a pool at the Totem Lake Malls and Mayor Amy Walen inquired about partnering with the Kenmore or the state to potentially utilize the Saint Edward Park space where the Carole Ann Wald Memorial Pool was once operated.

Some Council members pointed out that the city should be mindful of pool partners when looking at locations so that the pool can be accessible to others in the region.

However, City Manager Kurt Triplett said, although the city is actively looking for public and private pool partners, the future partners are “not moving as fast and they’re not as committed yet.”

“If it ends up being Kirkland alone with the school district, which we hope the end is not the case, but in [this] scenario, we want to make sure we’re delivering a great product for Kirkland residents and the school district as well.”

And for now, that’s keeping easily accessible, city-owned locations at the forefront.

The Lake Washington School District Board of Directors passed a resolution in September 2013 which said they would be willing to enter into a pool partnership. An undetermined amount of unspent funds from the district’s 2006 capital bond measure would go toward a future pool project with the caveat that the February 2014 bond passes.

The district estimates there’s $10-12 million left in the 2006 capital bond.

Shortly after the board’s resolution passed, the city of Kirkland allocated $215,000 for an aquatic center study.

During this time, Wave Aquatics, the nonprofit that currently operating the district-owned Juanita Aquatic Center, has also put together their own plan for a $20 million Eastside Aquatic Center.

Both entities maintain they’re looking for partners but have yet to reach any concrete agreements.

For more information on the progress of the city of Kirkland’s aquatics center, visit the city's Aquatic Center page.

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