This article is part of a series which will be published by the Longmont Observer this week providing more information on ballot issue 3B, a sales tax increase of 0.18% in the City of Longmont to fund the construction of a competitive swimming pool and ice rink. For general information on the ballot issue, see our overview.
As Longmont citizens consider whether to vote for a sales tax increase to fund the construction of a new pool & ice rink in the city, a common observation is that the city already has two lap swimming pools. One is located at the Longmont Recreational Center, the other is Centennial Pool.
Proponents of the ballot issue 3B point out, however, that Centennial Pool is quite old. In response to a question about the remaining life of the pool, Longmont Recreation and Golf Manager Jeff Friesner said, “when Centennial Pool opened in 1974, the estimated life of pools was 40 years. Centennial Pool is now 45 years old.”
The pool was closed for 5 months in 2018 due to a pump failure that flowed water into a mechanical space which was not designed to receive it. The damage was significant and required substantial renovation to return the pool to an operational state.
During a feasibility study conducted from 2015 – 2017 to examine the construction of a pool & ice facility, engineering firm Sink Combs Dethlefs inspected the Centennial Pool facility. The firm noted that the existing structure was generally in good condition, though not up to modern standards of vapor isolation and insulation. The lack of humidity control had caused corrosion in some areas of concern. Another area of concern was the lack of ADA compliance of several entrance and access areas.
More concern was expressed regarding the state of mechanical and plumbing services of the building. The firm recommended the replacement of all pipes carrying heat and replacement of a number of corroded valves. The firm noted corrosion in the room whose flooding eventually resulted in the 5-month closure of 2018.
Sink Combs Dethlefs provided two potential options to remediate the pool. In the first, lap lanes are extended into the current diving area (without removing the ability to dive by closing those lanes) and the parts of the building showing deterioration would be renovated including ADA accessibility. This option would cost $8.5 million dollars (including cost increases due to the passage of time from the original estimate) and would increase Centennial’s capacity from 6 lanes to 10 lanes.
The second option would fill in the pool and convert the space to two indoor basketball courts including all of the same building improvements if the pool were expanded (except for pool-related mechanical spaces). This option would cost $7 million dollars.
In comparison, the proposed new facility would include 25 swimming lanes, an ice hockey rink, and a fitness center at a cost of $45 million. Mayor Brian Bagley, the Longmont City Council’s most vocal proponent of the project, has argued that expanding Centennial Pool to have comparable capacity would cost at least $30 million though we have been unable to locate an estimate. That number does at least conceptually agree with the statement in the feasibility study that expanding the size of the pool would be “very costly.”
Another consideration for whether a new pool is needed is the amount of use. While the City does not track the number of pool-specific uses at the recreational center, Centennial Pool saw 205,251 entrances in 2017 (the pool was closed for 5 months for emergency repairs in 2018). The recreational center saw 470,653 entrances in 2018.
While we were not able to locate publicly available statistics of typical usage rates for public pools in the United States, anecdotal evidence does indicate that both Centennial Pool and the pool at the Longmont Recreation Center are crowded. In interviews with users of both pools, complaints included wait times for swimming lanes and lanes so crowded that it was not actually practical to lap swim for exercise.
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