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Allentown plans to spend about $1.3 million to recreate its Cedar Beach pool by next summer — with new attendance-boosting features including water slides, in-pool climbing walls and designated lanes for swimming laps.
It also plans to improve the filtration system at Mack pool and upgrade Bucky Boyle spray park — including adding new water features.
Lindsay Taylor, the city’s parks and recreation director, reported on plans for all the city’s pools during City Council’s parks and recreation committee meeting Wednesday evening.
She said the city will seek bids for all three projects in early fall and anticipates those improvements will be completed by June 2016.
No 2016 improvements are planned at the Jordan and Irving pools — or the long-closed Fountain Park pool.
At least a couple members of City Council want Fountain Park’s pool brought back by next summer.
“Something has to be done,” declared council president Ray O’Connell. “It’s imperative that we get something down at Fountain pool for the inner-city kids. I’m just not going to let it go.
“I’d love to see something at Fountain Park by 2016.”
Council member member Cynthia Mota, who chairs the parks and recreation committee, agreed with O’Connell that something should be done soon at Fountain pool.
But Taylor said Allentown’s other four pools should be considered first for improvements because they are operating and serving a need in the community.
Cedar Beach is the top priority because it is the city’s most popular pool, explained Taylor, with the highest attendance and revenue figures.
“We do believe people will come and pay to use that pool,” she said.
The parks director made a case that improvements should be made because attendance at the city’s four operating swimming pools has dropped by more than 33 percent — from more than 72,000 in 2011 to 48,600 in 2014.
She explained that decrease does not include 2015 attendance, because the Cedar Beach pool never opened this summer due to a major leak.
Taylor said the trend in aquatics “is toward facilities that offer variety for all ages” — including sprays and other water features — “and focus more on accessibility for all pool patrons, with zero-depth entry.”
She said the Jordan and Irving pools, as well as the Mack pools, will continue to operate as decisions are made about their future improvements.
“We will continue to evaluate the remaining pools to determine which ones will be done next,” she said, adding there is no firm timeline regarding when those pools will be renovated.
She indicated Jordan will be done before Irving and that it will get a variety of features similar to those planned for Cedar Beach.
Two pools in the existing Mack pool complex also eventually will be upgraded, although no changes are planned for Mack’s competition pool.
Spray pools are possibilities in at least two city locations. Those are shallow pools, four or five feet feet, with spray features that children play in. Taylor said those pools are deep enough for children to learn to swim.
Another possibility is the Fountain Park pool could be replaced with a spray park, where children get wet playing in water features but can’t swim because that water drains away.
Council member Jeff Glazier suggested spray parks primarily are for younger children and that 12-18-year-olds need places to swim.
Allentown plans to spend an estimated total of $1,725,000 at Cedar Beach, Mack and Bucky Boyle by the time next summer arrives.
O’Connell said $3 million is in the city’s budget for swimming pool upgrades, which means about $1.3 million will be left after those improvements are made.
Taylor said that’s not a lot of money to upgrade pools that have not been significantly improved for decades.
She said the city will seek grants to help pay for the pool projects and also will consider selling naming rights to the pools, as well as sponsorships.
Cedar Beach pool
Taylor said the Cedar Beach pool will remain in the same location, using its existing “footprint,” even though it is in a flood plain along Cedar Creek in west Allentown — and does get flooded.
New features in the pool will include water slides, a climbing wall, a section with designated lanes for swimming laps, a water feature area for younger children and in-pool bench seating.
She said the pool will be fully accessible to the handicapped, with programming for all age groups and abilities.
The new pool will have different sections, separated by concrete peninsulas.
By adding those peninsulas, Taylor said the amount of water surface in the pool will be dramatically reduced, “which reduces operating costs regarding chemicals because there is less water in the pool.”
Resident Tom Hahn expressed skepticism about having swimming lanes at Cedar Beach, saying people swimming in lanes keep others out of that part of a pool.
Hahn claimed those lanes and other “obstacles” planned for that pool will limit the number of people who can use it and create safety hazards.
The Cedar Beach pool also will get new piping underneath a new floor.
The city intends to spend an estimated $400,000 to replace the filtration system at Mack’s competition pool.
Taylor said that rough estimate includes replacing a roof and garage door on the pool’s filter building.
She said it is the original filtration system for that pool, which was built in 1962, and warned “it really can go at any time.”
She said the competition pool at Mack is a steel shell so, by replacing the filtration system, “that pool will be ready to go for many years.”
She said it is the only 50-meter pool within a 100-mile-radius of the city and presents an opportunity to bring people into the city for swimming meets.
“Mack Pool will be the city’s competition pool for many years to come,” said Taylor.
She explained the other two pools that are part of the Mack Pool complex in south Allentown will be considered for improvements at a later date. One of them may be turned into a spray pool.
Bucky Boyle spray park
After its spray park is improved in the coming months,“Bucky Boyle will continue to provide free relief to many residents with new water features and the upgraded water system,” said Taylor.
She said the free spray park is very popular but its water system and features are reaching the end of their useful life.
But she said the city can upgrade that spray park with its own workers “at significant savings.”
She estimated the cost of those renovations at about $25,000.
Bucky Boyle is in along the west bank of the Lehigh River.
Taylor reported Jordan Park’s pool on the north side of town is third in attendance and revenue.
She said the pool has a leak but, so far, the staff has been able to control it.
Because Jordan is located in a popular community park, Taylor said the scope of improvements being considered for that pool is similar to those planned for Cedar Beach.
Irving Pool in east Allentown is the smallest and oldest of the city’s pools. It was built in 1939.
Taylor said it averages only 7,500 patrons per season.
She said Irving does not have a leak and still operates “pretty well.” But she also said the pool is obsolete and has to be demolished.
Her department is considering replacing Irving with a spray pool.
The parks director said the Fountain Park pool along Martin Luther King Drive has been closed for at least five years.
Prior to its closing, she said attendance was very light even though Fountain was a free pool.
Taylor promised council members that Fountain will get equal consideration for a pool or spray park that meets the needs of children.
“We want to make sure we do the right thing.”
She even wants to get suggestions from children who would use a pool or spray park in Fountain Park.
She later indicated a final decision on the future of the Fountain pool site still may be two or three years off.
She said the shell of the existing pool will have to be demolished because it is in such bad shape.