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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Salt Lake pool opens Friday

By James Gonser
Advertiser Urban Honolulu Writer

The new $4.8 million swimming pool at Salt Lake District Park will open Friday with great fanfare, just months after some City Council members tried to stop the city administration from building new pools.

Myron Abe of Wahiawa takes a lap at Salt Lake's new pool. The facility includes men's and women's showers and restrooms, a manager's office, maintenance storage and equipment rooms, the Olympic-size pool and a training pool.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

The 50-meter pool was a long time coming for the Salt Lake community — three years in planning and construction.

"It is something that has taken awhile, but good things take time," said Grant Tanimoto, chairman of the Aliamanu/Salt Lake/Foster Village Neighborhood Board.

With the Salt Lake pool, the city now operates 20 public pools, five of them Olympic size.

Two more pools, in Lanakila District Park and at Mililani District Park, are in the design phase and pools for Hawai'i Kai and Wai'anae are awaiting financing.

This is the third city pool to open since 1996 when the Waikele Community Park pool opened, followed by the Makiki District Park pool last year.

It was the operating hours for lap and free swimming at Makiki pool — about 3 hours per day or 20 1/2 hours a week — that prompted some City Council members to press for a moratorium on building new pools and skateboard facilities this year, saying the city couldn't afford to maintain and adequately staff them.

The city countered that the pool operates much longer then the posted hours, offering swimming and exercise classes to children, senior citizens and special groups.

At a glance

• What: Grand opening ceremony for the new 50-meter public swimming pool in Salt Lake.

• When: 9:30 a.m. Friday

• Where: Salt Lake District Park

• Hours: Monday, Tuesday, Friday, 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. adult lap swimming and 2:30 to 5 p.m. public swimming; Wednesday and Thursday, 2:30 to 5 p.m. public swimming; Tuesday and Thursday, 6:30 to 8 p.m. night swimming; Saturday, Sunday and holidays, public swimming from 1 to 5 p.m.

The moratorium was defeated and Mayor Jeremy Harris yesterday vowed to continue building pools, calling it a "basic responsibility for us."

Posted hours for the Salt Lake pool indicate that it will be open for lap swimming and public open swimming for about 27 1/2 hours per week or about 4 hours per day.

In February, classes to teach children to swim will begin and other activities such as swim meets will be scheduled periodically, said pool manager Kaipo Tamashiro.

Harris said that when he was a teacher, he was appalled to learn that so many Island children didn't know how to swim. Harris said the city will continue to build as many pools as possible.

"Teaching children (to swim) in an island state, I don't look on as an extravagance," Harris said. "It is extremely irresponsible to continue to raise generations of children without giving them the basic water safety skills that they need to go in the ocean that surrounds them."

Harris said the city went through a period of about 20 years when no swimming pools were built and now there are not enough for the growing population.

"I think the result was clear," Harris said. "We ended up with a couple generations of kids not knowing how to swim and being afraid of the water. It is something we need to reverse."

The Salt Lake facility includes a new pool building with men's and women's shower/dressing/restrooms, a pool manager's office, maintenance storage rooms and equipment rooms; the Olympic size swimming pool, and a training pool.

The project also includes modifications to the existing park gymnasium's metal roof and siding, concrete bleachers, Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible ramps and concrete sidewalks, wrought iron fencing and lighting for night use.

"I was supportive of the moratorium," said City Councilman Romy Cachola. "We were looking at how to save money, but it was defeated. I believe the Salt Lake area, after looking at the facts and population, justifies the construction of the pool."

Cachola said about 30,000 people live near the pool and that several schools, including Salt Lake Elementary, Aliamanu Elementary and Intermediate and Moanalua High, will make good use of the facility. Nearby Radford High uses a military swimming pool for its students.

Salt Lake Elementary principal Dwayne Abe said some of his students and facility will participate in the opening ceremony.

"We have some future events planned already," Abe said. "The kids are excited. I've heard them talking already. ... It is about time they had something like that."

Harris said: "We certainly can't build swimming pools everywhere all at once, but we can reverse this 20-year mistake when the moratorium was in effect."

Reach James Gonser at jgonser@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2431.