PORT ANGELES — Steve Burke did not expect a global health crisis to cannonball the grand opening of the Shore Aquatic Center.
COVID-19 caused a splash but could not sink the $20 million renovation of the former William Shore Memorial Pool in Port Angeles.
The 30,000-square-foot facility, which doubled in size, is scheduled to open in early October at a limited capacity for coronavirus precautions.
“I would highly recommend not doing a construction project during a pandemic,” said Burke, the pool’s executive director, in a recent interview.
“That’s a unique one.”
Despite a four-month delay — the opening was originally planned for June — the pool at 225 E. Fifth St. is expected to be completed on budget.
“I don’t want to jinx myself, but we are within budget numbers,” Burke said.
A community open house is scheduled for Oct. 2. Public tours will be available.
Limited-capacity swimming will begin Oct. 3. Reservations will be required.
“When we have people come in, it will be for a two-hour session,” Burke said.
“And then we’ll have a half-hour down to clean. Then we’ll have another two-hour session available.”
A formal opening ceremony will be held after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, Burke said.
The pool will be open daily between 5:30 a.m. and 9 p.m. General admission prices are $6 for adults, $3.50 for youth, seniors and veterans, and $12 for a family. Annual members are $350 for adults, $205 for youth, seniors and veterans, and $485 for a family.
Burke said the prices were raised by about 3 percent from 2019.
Capacity will be limited to 91 swimmers to comply with COVID-19 restrictions. The aquatic center was designed to hold more than 300.
“It’s frustrating that we have to limit capacity, but it’s the right thing to do,” Burke said.
The state Department of Health requires that each swimmer have 72 square feet of space in the water, Burke said.
Dr. Allison Unthank, Clallam County health officer, said it is safe to swim at public pools as long as the facility follows COVID-19 safety guidance.
“There are no documented cases of COVID-19 from shared bodies of water,” Unthank said Thursday.
“The primary risk for transmission in pools is close contact between patrons getting in and out of the water,” she added.
“As long as the facility follows the guidance, properly disinfects and prevents crowding, the space should be quite safe.”
The Shore Aquatic Center contains four bodies of water: a six-lane lap pool with a dive tank, a wellness pool for exercise classes, an activity pool with splash-and-play features and a spa.
“Our most limiting factor at the pool is our lap lanes,” Burke said.
“You’re only allowed one person per lap lane.”
The lap pool will kept at about 79 degrees, down from 83 degrees in the former pool.
The wellness pool and activity pool, which includes a lazy river and vortex ring, will be kept at a comfortable 88 degrees. Swimmers also can relax in a 104-degree spa.
All told, the four pools contain 330,000 gallons of water, up from 200,000 gallons in the former pool.
The pool’s heating, pumping, filtration and salt-generation chlorine systems are operated from a control panel inside a mechanical room.
Chlorine is made on site from the pool’s saltwater, resulting in a neutral PH and less eye and skin irritations than traditional pools.
“Essentially, we’re our own little chlorine manufacturer,” Burke said during a Thursday tour of the facility.
The water is filtered through ultraviolet light, which is “really good because that inactivates COVID-19,” Burke said.
Once school sports return, Shore Aquatic Center will be home to the Port Angeles High School boys and girls swim and dive teams, which competed at the Sequim YMCA during the 2019-20 seasons.
The pool is a supported by a junior taxing district that shares the boundary of the Port Angeles School District.
In 2017, voters agreed to raise the district’s debt capacity from $6.5 million to $10 million. The renovation was funded with bonds, state and federal grants and cash reserves.
“It’s going to be an amazing asset to our community,” said Burke, who is also a Port of Port Angeles commissioner.
Shore Aquatic Center was named for William “Bill” Shore, who taught thousands of Port Angeles children how to swim in the 1950s. Shore will be memorialized on a wall above the spacious main entrance. A “Hall of Records” will display top meet times and more history about the pool.
Neeley Construction of Puyallup and its local subcontractors demolished most of the 1961 pool building last summer.
Construction on the new facility was halted for about two weeks at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and resumed with extra safety precautions in April.
The new aquatic center has a dedicated indoor space for the Splash, Play and Active Recreation for Kids (SPARK) Squad after-school program and an outdoor playground with multiple features above a synthetic turf.
The main entrance was moved from the east side to the west side of the property, where a new parking lot was built.
The pool has spacious locker rooms, offices and a meeting space that can be rented for birthday parties and other events.
Large windows on the south side of the energy-efficient building show views of Klahhane Ridge and Mount Angeles.
At full capacity, the pool will have about 75 part-time and full-time employees, Burke said. A team of 30 to 35 will staff the pool at its limited-capacity reopening.
“We have plenty of room to do social distancing within here,” Burke said.
“Plus, being in the water is a very safe activity.”
For information, see sacpa.org.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at [email protected].