Bainbridge park commissioners vote to build new pool at aquatic center

The Bainbridge Island Metropolitan Park &Recreation District Board of Commissioners has decided the park district will not be renovating the Ray Williamson Pool, nor constructing a new pool at the Sakai Park property.

The board of directors unanimously agreed to co-locate any new pool on the existing property for the Bainbridge Island Aquatic Center — which the park district leases from the Bainbridge Island School District on a long-term basis.

The board also agreed that the Ray Williamson Pool would not be renovated with exception to certain safety and maintenance issues, during its operation.

Bainbridge Island Swim Club’s Head Coach Carolyn Ackerley took a moment at the park board’s most recent meeting to illustrate Bainbridge’s need for more space to swim.

“Our community and sports attitudes have changed over the years,” Ackerley said. “Swimming is no different, swimming has become a year-round program. Our club has grown, we have grown to 120 members — and that’s with a cap, we’ve capped it for safety reasons.”

The sole purpose of the swim club, Ackerley said, wasn’t just swimming.

“The mission of our program is to help our kids become good human beings. Swimming is a tough sport, there’s no easy way to get through it, they do a lot of suffering, they do a lot of sacrificing and they become — I think — better people for that sacrifice,” the coach said.

Ackerley encouraged the board to build a pool which would allow for more room for swimmers to practice.

“We would like to grow the program, I think our community would be dedicated to filling that program. I think we can do it. If we build it, I think we can fill the pool,” she said.

“I would go big, because I’ve seen what happens when you don’t,” the coach added.

James Muir, who was recently named an Academic All-American by the National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association, agreed.

“We definitely need a larger, new pool. There’s simply not enough space in the current pool,” Muir said.

Muir has experienced firsthand the effects that the lack of adequate practice space can have on athletes.

“We don’t have good practice times, generally. We have to practice about 8 to 9:30 at night — which is not excellent, especially when you’re in school trying to work. There’s not enough space or time in the pool. A larger pool would allow for more people to use the pool,” he said.

Muir said he even knew of kids that were turning away from water sports.

“I know people that have tried water polo and they’ve enjoyed the sport, they just can’t make the practice times,” Muir said.

Recreation Division Director Mark Benishek laid out the options available to the board. Last June, Benishek commissioned a study by Aquatic Design Group to assess the condition of the aging Ray Williamson Pool.

According to the study, Benishek said, addressing current safety and maintenance concerns for the Ray Williamson Pool would cost just under $1.4 million.

Option One seeks to do a complete renovation of the pool in order to build a 25-yard-by-25-meter new pool on the existing footprint. This option, Benishek said, would cost $10.6 million.

Option Two would build a 50-meter-by-six-lane pool in the footprint of the current Ray Williamson Pool, for $13.9 million.

Option Three would be to construct a standard Olympic-size pool; 25-yards-wide-by-50-meters long. Benishek noted that such a pool would not fit within the current envelope of space leased by the Bainbridge Island School District, but such a pool would cost $19.3 million.

While it was not decided what size pool would be built, it was agreed by all board members that any new pools built by the park district will be colocated at the Aquatic Center.

Commissioner Jay Kinney suggested talking with the school district about teaming up for a new pool plan.

“I think it’s imperative that we talk to the school district and work out a partnership on this,” Kinney said.

“The school district wants things here, as well. They have to do something with Commodore, they’re thinking about doing something with Ordway, they have some really old administration buildings there,” Kinney added, pointing to possible future locations for a pool.

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