EVERETT — After three years dormant and vacant, Everett is figuring out the Forest Park Swim Center’s future.
The city, like other organizations, closed its pool in March 2020 because of pandemic public health guidance. But where other pools and swim centers reopened as early as that summer, Everett kept Forest Park’s closed as a casualty of budget cuts amid uncertain revenue.
Being just over 1 mile away from the new pool at the Everett Family YMCA has been a factor in that decision. All Everett residents can pay to use the YMCA pool without a membership as long as they get a background check and verify residency. The cost per day pass as of this week was $4.50 for kids, $5.50 for adults, or $16 for families.
Now, city staff are preparing to hire a consultant to study the 16,390-square-foot building’s future, whether that’s as is, with major renovations, or as something different. The council is scheduled to authorize a $92,000 contract for the study.
“We feel this is an important building,” Everett Parks director Bob Leonard told the Everett City Council parks and quality of life committee April 19. “So no matter what happens with the recreational component, it’s a great location and should be used by the city for some purpose, not just sitting there.”
Everett issued requests for proposal from another organization to operate it. Similar requests led to agreements for other city-owned buildings such as the Carl Gipson Senior Center and the plant nurseries at American Legion Memorial Park.
No one responded to run the city’s pool, Leonard said.
The Forest Park Swim Center opened in 1976, according to city documents. Its pool had several swimming lanes and a pair of diving boards used for competitions, swimming lessons and leisure for decades. There also are locker rooms, an office, sauna, jacuzzi spa and a small outdoor wading pool.
But Forest Park, like most public pools, consistently cost more than it brought in from admission fees, lessons and parties.
According to city budgets, Forest Park Forest Park Swim Center admission and swim lesson fees were among the parks department’s top revenue sources. Its expense budget grew from $750,000 in 2017 to just over $850,000 in 2018 and 2019.
But Forest Park’s best cost recovery was 56% when the city cut hours, packed the schedule with lessons and promoted private parties in 2019, Leonard said. That was still below the 68% recovery at other area pools, and Everett paid over $390,000 to operate its pool that year, he said.
In Mountlake Terrace, the Pavilion’s pool cost recovery has declined since 2007, according to data from parks director Jeff Betz. Only once in that stretch has the pool made money with a 105% recovery in 2010 when Lynnwood’s pool was closed for remodeling, Betz said.
Cost recovery at the Mountlake Terrace pool since the pandemic has been much lower than the prior decade or so when it was at least 67%.
Some public pools in the county are operated by school districts.
The Snohomish Aquatic Center that opened in 2014 is part of the Snohomish School District. Aside from outlier expenses and revenues during the pandemic, the district has used general fund money between $171,000 and $391,000 every year to operate the facility, which has separated spaces for competitions and leisure.
The Lake Stevens School District runs a pool at its namesake high school and often covers the operating costs with general fund money. Since the 2007-2008 school year, its best cost recovery year yielded a general fund hit of $93,000 and its biggest hits were during the pandemic at over $330,000. District spokesperson Jayme Taylor said the pool is “an asset to our high school and to our community” and the youth swimming lessons are important for water safety in the area.
USA Swimming, the national sports group, advocates for public pools as a means of healthy recreation and education to prevent drownings. According to the state Department of Health, drowning is the second-highest cause of injury-related deaths for children between 1 and 14 years old.
In a document about developing and preserving swimming facilities, the organization acknowledged city budgets are tight and pools can be a casualty of cuts. It proposed robust programs to help make pools a “community centerpiece.”
In 2007, Everett leaders considered adding a second pool to the city with an eye on building it at Thornton A. Sullivan Park near Silver Lake. That idea hinged on voter approval of a parks bond that never happened as the recession hit soon after the parks report came out.
Now city leaders want a feasibility study for the Forest Park Swim Center, a piece of Mayor Cassie Franklin’s directives this year, to help guide its fate. The study would include:
• A cost estimate and timeline to reopen the pool without major improvements;
• A conceptual plan with features such as a lazy river and zero-depth entry, estimates for those renovations and a new operations budget model;
• Other recreational opportunities in the space managed by the city or someone else; and
• Options for its non-recreational uses and up to eight potential business ideas.
Everett’s population is projected to grow in the coming decades, which likely means a second pool with public access will be needed, Leonard said.
Ben Watanabe: email@example.com; 425-339-3037; Twitter @benwatanabe.
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