The truth is, unless you live by the Belmont Pier, have an interest in an aquatic sport that will use the new pool, or have an interest in other shoreline projects on hold until the pool is done — you really don’t care.
Yes, this project is incredibly expensive, but that fact will be barely a blip on the political landscape when you confirm that the Tidelands funds being used for the pool come from oil companies and not tax dollars. Since these funds can’t be used in your neighborhood — Who Cares?
Here’s why we should care.
If built in one of several cost-cutting configurations being considered, life will be status quo. You might even wander down by the beach one day to take a look once it is finished. But for approximately 4% more, it can be built to NCAA and International swimming and diving competition standards. This project now has an economic impact that reaches throughout the city, ow?
While 62% to 78% of the time, this pool will be a beautiful recreational facility, in the remaining 22% to 38% it can be used for top-level competition that brings tourist dollars to the city. These tourists will spend money in Long Beach without the city spending any money on advertising. Organizers promote the events to constituents and larger events attract local and national television coverage.
If built to top competition standards, the separate deep-water section can be used for fun activities in a safe environment like SCUBA certification, deep water aerobics, synchronized swimming, deep water rescue training, indoor kayak, under water hockey, trick water skiing practice and more.
The influx of competitors and spectators obviously impacts Second Street for food and shopping between events. As Councilwoman Stacy Mungo pointed out when approving a new eatery, restaurant sales taxes are used for public safety, parks, libraries, streets and sidewalks throughout the city, not just where they are collected.
Competition visitors stay in Long Beach hotels. They go to Marina Pacifica, Marketplace Long Beach, the Pike, Pine Avenue, Shoreline Village, the Aquarium of the Pacific, Queen Mary and more.
For an average event, this amounts to hundreds of room nights and thousands of meals adding to the city’s tax revenue and local business income, not to mention the thousands of hours of parking meter income in the usually empty beachside parking lots.
A few times a year, these numbers will jump exponentially for major events like Pac-12 and NCAA Swimming, Diving and Water Polo, regional, zone and national championships. Long Beach could even be in the running for prestigious Pre-Olympic playoffs, Olympic Trials, Pan Pacific Games, Gay Games, World University Games and World Championship events.
Reported income from cities hosting these events in recent years reveal that all of this means millions of dollars in additional economic impact for Long Beach every year. If LA wins its bid for the 2024 Olympics, with the right pool, Long Beach can benefit from that too.
To gain the economic impact of these events, the pool needs to be built to competitive standards with a minimum 6-foot deep cooler temperature 50-meter competition pool, dryland warm-up area with therapy/hot tub, a separate warmer water diving well with competitive diving tower, and a minimum of 1,250 spectator seats. Without all of these things, the pool will be an outrageously expensive lap pool. For less than 4% more, it still will be very expensive, but will bring more than the initial increase in cost in economic impact for many, many years to come.
If you work at or own a food, hospitality or retail business that can benefit from increased revenue — urge the city to build the Belmont Aquatics Center right!
If you live in a neighborhood that could use upgrades to your city amenities — urge the city to build the Belmont Aquatics Center right!
City of Long Beach Aquatic Center Planning Committee and city officials — build the Belmont Pool right and they will come.
Jessica Payne is a Long Beach resident who spent most of 12 years at the Belmont Pool.