The proposal that had some of the lowest support in Longmont’s Recreation and Cultural Projects Survey was a renovation project to remove Centennial Pool and replace it with basketball courts.
More than half of the survey respondents said they would vote no on the $7 million project, and nearly one in ten wrote in their verbatim response that they wanted the city to keep the pool. One respondent said removing the swimming facilities would be a “blight on Longmont’s enduring history,” while another said removal of the pool for basketball courts would “cause me to vote no on all measures.”
However, Recreation Area Supervisor Sara Taylor explained over the phone Thursday that the nearly 50-year-old pool is nearing the end of its life and needs significant investment, whether to keep it as a pool or to repurpose the building.
“We’re coming to the point where within the next five, ten years we’re really going to have to start over with that facility, simply because that physical pool has been there since 1974 and it’s ready to start over,” she said. “You can only put Band-Aids on things for so long, right?”
The indoor pool at 1201 Alpine St. features six 25-yard lap lanes, wading area and deep end with two one-meter diving boards along with a small fitness room. Taylor called the community pool a “pretty hoppin’ place,” with swimmers often having to share lanes and always home to a variety of programs and classes at the pool.
“Centennial Pool is an amazing facility,” Taylor said. “It’s got beautiful natural light. We’ve got an amazing patron base that will come on a regular basis to swim, to socialize, to get their workouts in.”
To keep the pool, the plumbing and shell of it would have to be gutted and replaced entirely, something that City Manager Harold Dominguez estimated would cost about $15 million. That’s an amount of money that the city’s recreation department does not have lying around, Taylor said.
“I think that was kind of neat, seeing a lot of the results from the survey, seeing how much our community really appreciates Centennial Pool, and that they’d love to see it stay as a pool,” she said. “If that’s the path we’re going to go, we’re going to have to basically take it offline and really give it a beautiful face lift. We need to be able to have the funds so that we can invest in it for the long term.”
The survey only asked if voters would be willing to support a $7 million property tax and 0.02% sales tax increase to remove the pool and replace it with basketball courts and other fitness spaces. Respondents weren’t asked if they’d be willing to pay $15 million to keep the pool, but Taylor noted that the cheaper courts would also have more reasonable maintenance costs.
“With a pool facility, you have ongoing maintenance,” she said. “You have water, you’ve got the chemicals that we use to treat the water. You’ve got staffing costs because you always have to have your lifeguards on staff watching the water. So the operational expenses of running a pool are much, much higher than having a basketball court.”
Centennial Pool remains operational for now, but the city will have to make some decisions in the coming years with or without a new funding base to support the project. Taylor emphasized that the purpose of the survey was to make sure that the city aligns its priorities with the public’s priorities.
“How we take care of our recreational facilities and how we expand our recreational offerings, we want to make sure that’s in alignment with what our community really wants,” she said.