Tacoma City Council approves contract for Hilltop community center aquatic facility

A long-shuttered community swimming pool in Tacoma's Hilltop neighborhood is expected to open next year following major upgrades and new...

A long-shuttered community swimming pool in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood is expected to open next year following major upgrades and new amenities.

Tacoma City Council approved a purchase resolution Tuesday awarding a contract worth nearly $6 million to Tacoma-based Construction Enterprises & Contractors to build a new swimming pool and aquatics center at the People’s Community Center, located at 1602 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Way. The center, which was built in 1978, is owned by the City of Tacoma and operated by Metro Parks Tacoma. The pool was closed in 2008 after an engineer’s report cited structural concerns.

A new swimming pool is the centerpiece of the project, which will also include a three-lane lap pool, passive swim area and bench, indoor spray pad, current channel, vortex, and lily pad walk. In addition, visitors will also notice new restrooms and changing areas, two party rooms, and basketball hoops. Three contractors submitted proposals for the project after it was put out for bid in January (see “Tacoma Bid Watch: Hilltop swimming pool, transient camp clean ups, and South Tacoma Way revamp,” Tacoma Daily Index, Feb. 12, 2015; and “Tacoma Bid Watch: Foss Waterway Esplanade, ammo recycling, and People’s Community Center swimming pool,” Tacoma Daily Index, Jan. 13, 2015). The project is being paid for using approximately $3.45 million $5.34 million (see below) in City bonds, approximately $1.74 million in Metro Parks Tacoma bonds, and a $485,000 grant from the Washington State Department of Commerce.

A ground-breaking ceremony could be held by the end of this month. The project is scheduled to be completed during summer 2016.

More information about the project is available online at cityoftacoma.org/peoplespool.

During the Tacoma City Council meeting on Tuesday, several people spoke in support of the new swimming pool and aquatics center at the People’s Community Center.

Fletcher Jenkins (People’s Community Center Pool Improvements Community Advisory Group)

I’m just here to express our deepest appreciation and thanks to the City, our park district, and especially our two council people [Lauren] Walker and [Victoria] Woodards — the dynamic duo who helped us through this program of delivering a swimming pool back to our community. This was a vital, important area that we were working toward throughout the years, and with their help — and the community, our churches, and other organizations and groups who supported us — we have finally arrived. We are hoping that now that we see the finish line, that we can see everyone at the groundbreaking. Hopefully this will proceed in a way that will strengthen our community, especially for our children in our area.

Lauren Walker (Tacoma City Councilmember)

This has been a very long time coming. In 1969, the African American community in the Hilltop asked the City for a pool for the kids, and the pool got built. When I started on the City Council in 2008 — in January, my first month — I wrote a letter to the Metro Parks Commissioners asking them to value their pool. I asked them to think about what they could do to make People’s Pool better. But three months later, the pool was closed because it was condemned. We were not happy. It’s been seven years and three months of very hard work to raise $6 million, to have a partnership between Metro Parks and the City of Tacoma, to get state Legislature funding, and to put an amazing group of stakeholders together. I want to thank Metro Parks because I think they got tired of seeing me coming because we kept insisting that we really wanted the pool to be returned. So it is a really lovely banner evening tonight to be able to be moving forward on this and to get the pool built again. The shovels will be in the ground soon. We are very happy that this is moving forward.

Victoria Woodards (Tacoma City Councilmember)

Councilmember [Ryan] Mello and I were on the [Metro Parks Tacoma] Board [of Commissioners] at the time that this process started. What we kept hearing as we traveled all across the country was that communities didn’t want pools anymore. Those kinds of pools were expensive and people weren’t going to use them. But we kept hearing in Tacoma that we wanted a pool. I’ll never forget the night that we had that meeting at the People’s [Community] Center to talk about what we might put here instead of a pool, and the community clearly said, “No. We had a pool. We want a pool. We’re going to use a pool.” It’s because of that that the pool is going back. I thank Metro Parks for being open and not listening to what all the national data said because you’re not always going to relate that to every community. This is a great day for Tacoma and I can’t wait to put one of those shovels in the ground.

UPDATE | MON., APRIL 13, 2015 @ 8 A.M. — A groundbreaking ceremony for the new aquatics facility at the People’s Community Center is being planned for Thurs., May 7, according to the City of Tacoma’s Web site.



UPDATE MON., APRIL 27 @ 8 A.M. | This article has been updated to reflect changes to the total cost of the project.

In 2009, a facility audit put the cost to renovate the pool at $5.2 million.

In January 2015, the project was put out for bid with a budget estimated at $4.8 million.


In March 2015, the cost of the project was $5.68 million.


Also in March 2015, a sign outside the People’s Community Center put the project at $6.35 million ($4.7 million in City funding; $1.65 million in Metro Parks Tacoma funding).


In April 2015, a press release from Metro Parks Tacoma put the project cost at $7.6 million.


To read the Tacoma Daily Index‘s complete and comprehensive coverage of the People’s Community Center swimming pool and aquatics center, click on the following links:

Todd Matthews is editor of the Tacoma Daily Index, an award-winning journalist, and author of A Reporter At Large and Wah Mee. His journalism is collected online at wahmee.com.

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