Following six days of outcry from the professional diving community, Long Beach City Council unanimously agreed to abandon original platform-free renderings of the proposed Belmont Plaza Pool in favor of an aquatic venue that would cater to both professional divers and recreationists alike.
The permanent closure of the current natatorium, announced last week as the pool was determined to be seismically unsafe, came attached with a plan that essentially catered to recreational activities with no professional diving facility–a shock given that Belmont Pool is the only indoor platform facility in the entirety of Southern California. This lack brought forth some of swimming’s most valued players: 1996 waterpolo Olympian Craig “Chi” Kredell; Swimming Olympians Susie Atwood (1968, 1972) and Jessica Hardy (2012); and diving Olympians Greg Louganis (1976, 1984, 1988) and Cassidy Krug (2012), all of whom spoke about the importance of maintaining world-class aquatics facilities.
The outcry prompted 3rd District Councilmember Gary DeLong and 4th District Councilmember Patrick O’Donnell to add to Tuesday’s city council meeting an alternative motion to maintain platform diving inside the facility by increasing the length of the indoor pool to accommodate 10-meter platforms and a diving well.
A City staff-prepared presentation included two options to add competitive diving platforms into the new facility plans, one that added the platforms and well to the outdoor pool at a cost of $2 to $3 million and another that added the same to the proposed indoor pool at a cost of $8.1 million, the latter being more expensive because it would increase the height and footprint of the building.
After 45-minutes of public comment from professional divers to community members, the council voted to add diving platforms to the indoor pool before approving plans to construct an entirely new $62 million indoor-outdoor facility–the most expensive of four rebuilding options and two diving platform alternatives presented. A temporary pool, to be placed adjacent to the natatorium in the parking lot at a cost of $4 million, could be built in six to nine months.
The new Belmont Plaza Pool will take at least two years to build, but Assistant City Manager Suzanne Frick said it would take about a year to complete the environmental review and get approval from the Planning Commission and the California Coastal Commission. Funding will be requested in phases as the project moves forward and the cost of the temporary pool is budgeted in fiscal year 2013 as part of the Tidelands Operation Fund.
The plans for the new facility are hoped to be completed in time to help train for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janero.
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Additional reporting by Sarah Bennett.
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