Pool progress: domes, dollars, and permits

Submitted by Friends of Lopez Island Pool

“Pool Progress: Behind the Scenes of the Lopez Swim Center” is an eight-part series to keep you informed with project updates, along with interviews from Swim Center experts, leaders, and community members supporting the campaign. This is part two of our eight-part series.

Project Updates

Financial Assistance Program. Ensuring the entire Lopez community can access the Swim Center is essential. We are a diverse community with vastly different financial resources, so financial assistance will be available for those individuals and families in need, with significant (50% to 75%+) discounts off standard membership rates.

Lifeguard recruitment! You’ve heard about the lifeguard shortage affecting pools nationwide. We have taken steps to ensure the Swim Center has the life-saving staff we need. This June, the Swim Center launched lifeguard information sessions and continues to receive sign-ups. Please contact info@lopezislandpool.org if you are interested in becoming a lifeguard or swim instructor.

Q and A regarding Domes, Dollars and Permits with FLIP’s Board Chair Bill LeDrew and Executive Director Anne Marie MacPherson:

Q: There hasn’t been much news about the Lopez Swim Center this past year—why?

A: The board, staff, project team, and committees have been working diligently behind the scenes to create an even more efficient Swim Center, both in design and operation. It’s been a focused and productive time during which we’ve been laying the foundation for a well-run and financially sustainable swim center.

Q: What is happening with project costs? How are you keeping this project attainable?

A: Inflation and other economic drivers over the past two years have contributed to cost escalation affecting this project. In late 2021, our general contractor provided an updated cost estimate that led us to simplify and downsize the facility to reduce costs and ensure that the project remained affordable. We scaled back the shower-house design and identified more energy-efficient equipment choices. The biggest change was to transition from a natatorium with a retractable roof to a seasonally indoor/outdoor pool with an air-inflated dome.

Q: I keep hearing about the dome. How will it work?

A: An air-inflated dome, or “bubble,” will cover the pools during the cooler months and allow indoors swimming. In warmer weather, the dome will be deflated to allow open-air swimming. We choose Arizon because, first and foremost, it is an air-handling company, specializing in air quality and air flow.

The Arizon dome is durable and long-lasting: Arizon’s air-handling system is designed for a 30+ year lifespan, and the fabric is designed for a 20- to 30-year life, with a 20-year warranty. A wind/snow sensor will automatically adjust airflow and a backup generator will kick on in the event of power failure. The dome has a translucent skylight allowing natural daylight during the day, reducing need for artificial lighting. Domes are relatively simple to put up and take down. The membrane folds up and can be stored on two large pallets during the warmer months.

Q: Does the project have all its permits?

A: We are still waiting for our final permits. As you may have heard, the San Juan County Building Department has been overburdened due to staffing and technology challenges. This has resulted in delays in receiving our building permits. The good news is San Juan County Building Department has outsourced our permit application to help expedite the approval process. The review is proceeding, and no concerns have been raised. We have done everything possible to ensure a smooth review on our end.

Q: In what ways is the Lopez Swim Center stronger than ever?

A: We have been using this time to focus on implementation and operations. When the pool opens, we’ll be in great shape to run the Swim Center! Our highly detailed financial projections are based on aquatic trends and facilities with similar communities and programming. We have planned a sustainable operation that will meet the community’s needs for years and decades to come.

The Lopez Swim Center has scaled up its leadership with knowledgeable professionals who are guiding the planning, fundraising, construction, and future operations of the Swim Center. Our leadership team has grown exponentially to include volunteer committee members with expertise in key areas (see an upcoming article for interviews with a few of our committee members.)

We hired nationally renowned aquatic experts Water Technologies Inc. to oversee the technical design of the pool and recommend the most effective and efficient equipment. They advised us on the best choices for operating cost, energy, and water efficiency for maintaining a pool on a remote island.

Q: What is the budget for the project? How much has been raised?

A: We won’t know the final cost of the pool until the permit is approved. We know that costs continue to rise and, despite our budget cuts, there will still be a financial gap. But we are confident that once we receive permits, we’ll be able to close the gap.

So far, more than $7 million has been raised from 1,100 donors. Our amazing community has shown how much they want this swim center!

We’re building something on this island that will last for generations. We hope the community will be inspired to join us in this fundraising homestretch. It takes a while to create something great, but it will be worth the wait.