After nearly 50 years, the Kent Meridian public pool will close for good the final day of July.
“A lot of people are surprised,” said Santana Velasquez, who works as a cashier at the pool, during a Friday phone interview. “Some are upset because it’s been around so long. Some are angry because the YMCA prices are so expensive. We try to keep it affordable.”
Kent’s first YMCA is scheduled to open in September at Morrill Meadows Park on the East Hill. The last day the Kent Meridian Pool is open to the public is Tuesday, July 30, said City Parks Director Julie Parascondola. City officials said in 2017 that the Kent Meridian Pool would be closing once the new YMCA was built.
Velasquez, who competed for the Kent-Meridian High School swim team before she graduated in 2018, had mixed emotions about the pool closure.
“I understand why,” Velasquez said. “The pool needs a lot of maintenance that it’s not been getting from the city. The Y will be a better facility and have less issues.”
The city of Kent and Kent School District took over the Kent Meridian pool from King County in 2003. County voters approved a Forward Thrust measure in 1968 that led to the construction of about 16 pools over the next several years. But the county got out of the pool business in the early 2000s when it ran into budget shortfalls and decided to spend funds on other services.
The Kent City Council, when it agreed to pay to operate the pool in 2003, directed city staff to pursue a long-term solution to replace the even-then aging facility. City officials wanted to build the city’s own pool. But plans for a new facility on the Naden Avenue property were dropped because of the high costs and a lack of funds, so city staff began to look for a partner and started talking to YMCA officials in 2010.
Eventually, city officials formed a partnership with the YMCA of Greater Seattle to build a new $36.6 million facility, including a pool. The city contributed $11 million toward the project.
So as one pool opens, another fades away.
“Over the next few months, the city of Kent will begin working through the next steps of formally terminating our role in this agreement as well as work through all the final details of the dissolution, including next steps with the decommission of the facility itself,” Parascondola said about the contract with King County and the Kent School District. “The city will spend the month of August salvaging materials from the pool, where applicable and working with its current pool operator on the close out of any final operating details.”
Aquatics Management Group, Inc., operated the pool for the city.
“On behalf of the city and Kent Parks, I would like to personally thank Aquatics Management Group for their many years of teaching youth and adults the critical skill of how to swim and for also providing an opportunity for the Kent community to be active and fit by providing open swim, aerobics, pool parties and more,” Parascondola said. “They have been a great partner for Kent Parks in helping us providing aquatics programming to the community.”
The school district reportedly plans to demolish the pool building to make room for more classrooms.
The Kent Meridian Pool has 13 employees, Velasquez said, most of them part-time workers. Many of them work other jobs as well. Velasquez will return to Hood College in Maryland.
High school swim teams from Kent-Meridian and Kentwood that used the pool will train and compete at the YMCA, part of the agreement reached with the city and school district. The YMCA will block off certain pool hours for the teams.
The YMCA will offer two free community swims to residents on the first and third Sunday of the month from 1 to 5:30 p.m. The YMCA offers memberships based on income to adjust fees.