Walla Walla needs an aquatic center

Last month, a plan was floated to build an $8 million facility. Before it goes to the ballot, those behind the plan must make sure it's a plan voters will approve.

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The lack of a public swimming pool or aquatic center has been a source of irritation for many in this community since Veterans Memorial Pool was shut down a few years back. The cost of making repairs to that pool was too high to justify because it was not heavily used.

Even before the aging pool was closed, folks in and around Walla Walla worked to replace it with a state-of-the art aquatics center. The idea was to build a facility that would be appealing to children and adults.

It didn't happen. Two ballot measures failed to gain the 60 percent approval needed.

But the effort continues. A group of folks are now working on another plan to build a public water park. Last month a proposal was made public at a work session of the Walla Walla City Council.

The plan - with an $8 million price tag - is for an aquatics park with two slides, a children's pool and play structure, a wave pool, a splash pad and a lazy river.

However, the plan does not include a traditional swimming pool where people can swim laps and teams can practice and compete.

The lack of a pool has been a concern to some as the proposal has been discussed around town.

The no-pool approach was taken because a lap pool didn't make economic sense. Parks and Recreation Director Jim Dumont said the goal is to build a facility that can operate with revenue generated from customers.

To operate in the black the proposed aquatic center would have to attract at least 400 users per day.

A standard lap pool is costly to maintain and serves a relatively small number of people. A 50-meter pool could accommodate 225 recreation swimmers and far fewer when lap swimming was taking place.

So far, those who want a pool for lap swimming and swim teams have voiced concern. But is this a big deal for the community?

We aren't sure.

What we do know is whatever plan is put on the ballot should be a plan that is a slam dunk for approval. A third failure could be a setback too devastating to overcome.

We believe this community needs a public aquatics center that offers young children, teenagers and adults a place to have some summer fun. Water slides and waves pools are very popular, which is why they are at the heart of aquatic centers around the Northwest and the nation.

We also see a need for a nice outdoor pool for swimming and swim teams. We envision a place where affordable swim lessons would be available to supplement the lessons already offered in the area.

Nevertheless, the plan outlined has merit. A lot of hard work has gone into looking at what's feasible and affordable.

Perhaps this is what the majority of voters want. Then again, it might be necessary to make changes - a pool added or the lazy river subtracted - to gain approval.

The goal must be to get a community aquatics center that serves Walla Walla well.

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