Options to rebuild or replace the Belmont Plaza Pool will go to the Long Beach City Council in February, and likely will include installation of a temporary swimming pool.
The indoor pool at Belmont Plaza was closed on Jan. 10 due to a report saying there would be significant damage if there were a moderate earthquake. Some swimming has continued at the adjacent outdoor pool, and results of an engineering analysis are expected to determine the final fate of the pool within a week, according to George Chapjian, director of the Parks, Recreation and Marine Department.
Last year, the City Council tasked Chapjian with studying alternatives for the historic pool, which opened in 1968 and hosted U.S. Olympic Swim Trials that year and in 1976. The pool was closed for more than three months in 2012 in two episondes due to leaking pipes and drains, with nearly $500,000 in Los Angeles County recreation bond money spent.
That was taking place while consultant RJM Consulting out of San Juan Capistrano conducted its study. Chapjian said stakeholders in both the competitive and recreational swim and water polo communities were part of meetings to prepare that study.
“There’s a need for a recreational pool and a competitive swimming venue,” Chapjian said. “We’ve looked at a number of different concepts, and no decision has been made yet. There definitely will be one 50-meter competitive pool, but we’re still talking about what the second pool should look like.”
Athletes and coaches raised the issue of what a new Belmont Plaza would look like last week at an Aquatic Capital of America awards dinner. The current pool has facilities for springboard and platform diving in addition to short course and long course competition and water polo.
Competitive swimmers want uniformly deep — 6 ½ to 8 feet — pools for meets, and would prefer the second pool be that way as well. Chapjian said that the recreational swimming component with classes and exercise sessions require a shallow portion of the pool to accommodate youngsters.
“We can’t just use the facility for competition,” he said. “It’s in the Tidelands, and the Coastal Commission is most concerned about access for the general public… We understand that the nature of competitive swimming holds a special place in Long Beach.”
Third District Councilman Gary DeLong, whose district includes Belmont Plaza and who has pushed for the rebuild using Tidelands money, said he believes the competitive aspects will be addressed.
“We’re pushing for as much of a competitive venue as we can,” DeLong said. “It will be a competitive venue supporting recreational swimming, not the other way around. I do think the Coastal Commission would be concerned if we provided less access to recreational swimmers, though.”
Whether a new facility will include diving is another question not yet answered, Chapjian said. A building that would accommodate a platform diving tower — 10 meters-plus tall — could run as much as $4 million more than one without a tower, he said.
DeLong said he expects alternatives to include a new temporary pool to be used while a new Belmont Plaza is built. He cautioned that compromise will be necessary to move the project forward.
“We started this before, five years ago,” he said. “We got the study done, then we lost focus. There will definitely be more public meetings after we get some direction from the council, but we have to be careful that we don’t get bogged down focusing on one aspect or another to the exclusion of everything else, then lose focus and not get it done.”