Earlier feedback supports year-round facility
Community members will get their first look at concepts for a new year-round swimming pool in the Methow Valley during an on-line community forum on March 24, hosted by Friends of the Pool.
The community meeting, to be held via Zoom, will describe options for different types of swimming pool facilities developed by consultants hired by Friends of the Pool, which is spearheading planning for the pool project. The meeting begins at 6 p.m. and people can join via a link on the Friends of the Pool website at: foptwisp.org/events.
The consultants will also present findings of a market analysis conducted over the winter that evaluates the Methow Valley’s potential to support a year-round pool to replace the aging Ernest O. Wagner Memorial Pool in Twisp.
The community forum is the next step in a planning process that began last October when Friends of the Pool hosted a community meeting to launch its “Big Splash” campaign for a new swimming facility. At that meeting, local residents shared their ideas about a future swimming pool with consultants from Ballard*King & Associates, a Colorado-based recreation consulting and planning firm hired by Friends of the Pool.
With feedback from the community, consultants have developed three preliminary alternatives to consider for a pool facility, said Sarah Schrock, president of Friends of the Pool.
“The options will range from a modest replacement that achieves some of the needs for expansion we know we have, like another lap lane, to a year-round indoor aquatics facility with room to expand ‘dry side’ amenities,” Schrock said.
Dry-side amenities include things like climbing walls, workout equipment, sport courts and social spaces. The consultant’s market analysis says that these amenities “are proven to help swimming pools pencil out better” financially by expanding options for users, Schrock said.
“Users will do more than one thing in a visit, or families will split up. Mom goes to the gym while kids have a swim lesson. … That is why we often see recreation centers with other amenities,” Schrock said. “Our first priority is a pool, but we’d be foolish to overlook the potential for growth.”
The alternatives presented at the public forum will be conceptual, but will provide baseline capital costs, operating costs and revenue projections, Schrock said. The consultants will also summarize their market analysis, including possible creation of a special recreation district to support the pool facility, she said.
“After these are presented to the public, we will take these options and do a deeper dive with focused stakeholder groups to finalize a preferred option,” Schrock said. “The preferred option will then be fine-tuned and it will be the basis for moving forward to securing both operational revenue and capital costs for the project. We hope to have the preferred option by May 31.”
People attending the online forum will be able to comment or ask questions during the meeting, said Bo Thrasher, a Friends of the Pool board member. “And then of course people are always welcome to go to our website and give feedback there or to any of the board members,” she said.
Friends of the Pool was formed in 2005 to support the Wagner Memorial Pool, which is owned and operated by the Town of Twisp, but is used by residents from throughout the Methow Valley and visitors. Over the years the nonprofit group has raised and given more than $400,000 for pool repairs and operating expenses.
After a pool engineering firm determined that it would cost more to repair the 55-year-old pool than it would to replace it, Friends of the Pool began hosting meetings in 2020 with valley residents to explore ideas for a new pool. A gift from an anonymous fund of the Philadelphia Foundation, which supports community-based philanthropic causes, enabled Friends of the Pool to hire the consulting firm last year to conduct a feasibility study on building and funding a new swimming pool facility.
Ballard*King consultants are working with a ECONorthwest, a finance, policy and planning firm, to evaluate the feasibility of a special recreation district to support a new pool facility.
“One of the critical pieces to making a new pool a reality, regardless of scale of the facility, is securing operating funds,” Schrock said. It is very uncommon, she said, for pools to cover their operating costs through income from lessons or passes.
“A pool should be considered a public good or service, providing safety, health, and general well-being to the public,” she said.
The need for a swimming pool that is open year-round was a common theme expressed by people at the community meeting held last fall. The pool in Twisp is only open in summer, less than three months a year. Last year it closed after only a month due to unhealthy air caused by wildfires. Community members also emphasized the need for more activities in the valley for teens and older residents.