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Southside Park swimmers should know in the next week whether a bold new plan to reopen the Southside Park Pool succeeds – if it does, it will make for a cool summer for thousands of central city swimmers.
The plan hinges on a new partnership between the city of Sacramento and the Sacramento YMCA where the YMCA will operate the pool and provide staff and maintenance all year.
“If we can accomplish this, the Southside (Park) Pool will be open for business seven days a week,” City Councilman Rob Fong said. “It would be an amazing asset for the community again.”
The new plan includes swim lessons, an aquatics program and open swim times at the pool for families and kids who are out of school on summer break.
Denise Wunibald, a resident of Southside Park since 2001, said she used the Southside Park Pool regularly for lap swimming when it was open, and she misses those opportunities.
“It’s not just for me, though,” Wunibald said. “When I first heard about the pool closing, I started thinking about the neighborhood kids and how much they use the pool.”
Jay Lowden, executive director of the Sacramento YMCA, said the nonprofit organization will operate the pool, staff all programs and maintain the pool systems and water. Major mechanical issues will be cared for by the city.
Although it will be operated as an extension of the local YMCA, Lowden said pool-goers will not have to be members of the YMCA to use the pool.
The costs for the aquatics programs and swim lessons will not change from current YMCA pricing, Lowden said, but there will be an increase in open swim fees from $1 to $2 per person.
If Southside Park Pool reopens, it will be open for more hours, more days of the week and for a longer season than any other pool in the city, according to Southside Park Neighborhood Association member Catherine O’Brien.
“If necessity is the mother of invention, we’ve come to the point where this invention works,” Fong said. “I’ve taken the plan to our city manager, and I’m optimistic that we may be able to go forward.”
The idea was spearheaded by SPNA members when they realized their neighborhood pool wasn’t on the list of pools to be saved by the SaveMart grocery chain’s recent “Save Our Pools” campaign.
O’Brien said Friday that the Southside Park Pool has historically been the fourth most-used pool in the city, but it was left off the list of pools to be kept open because other pools across the city took priority.
The SaveMart campaign raised $1 million to keep six local pools open – the same ones that were open last year, O’Brien noted.
Despite serving more than 15,000 people when it was last open in 2010, Southside Park Pool wasn’t on that list.
O’Brien said she and some of her neighbors banded together as the SaveMart effort was getting under way and started working to get the Southside Park Pool open for this summer.
“We knew that the year before the city talked to the YMCA, and they were interested in partnering, but that discussion didn’t pan out,” O’Brien said.
According to Lowden, the timing of that discussion was too late in the season to be productive, and the idea was scrapped.
O’Brien contacted city Department of Parks and Recreation personnel and contacts at the YMCA in late March to start a new conversation about partnering with the nonprofit organization.
O’Brien, Lowden and Maddy Hoe, head of the aquatics program at the YMCA, worked with Jim Combs, head of the Department of Parks and Recreation, to structure a detailed plan and then presented their idea to Fong and other city officials.
“Our vision for the pool is to have vendors there, and to have umbrellas available for parents watching swim lessons, and possibly solar panels for heating the pool,” O’Brien said. “First, we need to get it reopened.”
Keeping the pool open for the summer will cost approximately $75,000, and the majority of that will be sustained by aquatics program and swim lesson fees.
There is a $25,000 gap in the proposed pool budget, however, and O’Brien and other neighborhood association members said they are working to find ways to close that gap before the plan gets scrapped again.
They are also calling on Fong, the current council representative for the Southside Park area, to work with City Manager John Shirey to find city funding to buoy the project.
Once program details are finalized, the following weeks would be spent hiring and training staff and lifeguards in time to open the pool at the beginning of June, Lowden said.
If the plan is approved, the Southside Park Pool, in Southside Park at Sixth and U streets, would be open at least four hours per day, seven days a week throughout the
summer, O’Brien said.
Melissa Corker is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow her on Twitter @MelissaCorker.
NOTE: A correction was made to this article after it was published. The incorrect information has been struck out and replaced with the correct information.