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News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Council Roundup: Aquatic center options considered

City Council members expressed support for the idea of a new swimming pool in Bellevue that would better serve the broad aquatic community, including competitive swimmers. After looking at a preliminary feasibility study Monday, they asked staff to find potential partners, including other cities, to help fund the considerable construction and maintenance costs that would be involved.

"There is interest in pursuing this further," said Mayor Grant Degginger. "We have a long way to go in terms of identifying what partners may be out there, Bellevue Aquatic Centerwhat kinds of structure and governance might work and what the optimum program is here so that we can develop something that will be used and loved and a great asset to the community and the region."

The council commissioned the feasibility study in 2007, after a group of area swimmers asked the city to consider building a multi-purpose aquatic complex that could accommodate a wide range of aquatic needs, including competitive swimming events. About 25 members of the group, Swimming Pools for Leisure, Active Sports and Health (SPLASH), attended Monday's meeting and several spoke in support of the competitive aquatic facility options identified in the study.

The Bellevue Aquatic Center near Odle Middle School meets the needs of lap swimmers and children taking lessons. It also provides a warm water therapy pool, but the current facility does not meet length or depth requirements for more serious competitive swimming.

The draft study confirmed great demand for new or expanded swimming facilities throughout the region. However, swimming pools are very expensive to build and maintain. According to the study, the more expensive the facility, the less fees cover the cost of maintenance.

The study was conducted to assist the council in identifying current needs and reach a decision if, or to what extent, it supports the development of an aquatic center. The draft feasibility study: 1) explored a range of facility options with estimated financial performance; 2) analyzed the current aquatic market; 3) conducted some preliminary site analysis; and 4) explored a range of potential financing options. 

Five kinds of swimming facilities were contemplated, from a locally-focused $19 million outdoor leisure pool to an $80 million national indoor natatorium with an Olympic-sized pool and a diving well.  

As part of the study, the city conducted extensive public outreach. Staff met with nearby cities, school districts, Bellevue Community College and King County, as well as the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce and the Bellevue Downtown Association. There were focus group meetings with aquatics interest groups and a public interest survey of Bellevue residents.

Significant findings included:

  • All groups and organizations identified the need for additional aquatics facilities to serve the Eastside;
  • The local competitive swimming community is very active, with 4,277 families being members of private outdoor pools in Bellevue, and 3,640 swimmers participating in 26 Eastside swim clubs;
  • Most aquatic facilities are 30 to 40 years old and in need of significant renovation or replacement within the next five to 10 years. Some local facilities have already closed or may close in the near future;
  • Most area high schools, including all Bellevue schools, do not have their own pools, and rely on other aquatic facilities to serve their competitive swim programs; and
  • Growth in many local aquatics organizations/programs is constrained due to a lack of pool time and space.

The public interest survey indicated that nearly half of Bellevue households use swimming facilities and/or programs, with the most popular swimming types being recreational swimming, fitness/lap swimming and swim lessons.

The council reviewed each of the options and asked for more information about facilities that could accommodate local and regional competitions.

The council directed staff to return at a later date to further define program needs, site considerations and potential city involvement in this major undertaking, and to seek alternative funding sources, including both capital and operating partners.

Feedback: Glenn Kost, Parks & Community Services Planning Manager, 425-452-5258 or gkost@bellevuewa.gov

The Council Agendas and Council Minutes pages offer complete information regarding Council meetings.

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