|Opera Entrance (Photo credit: Keturah Stickann)|
A 5th District resident, Lucy Johnson, has taken on this issue and has sent the City Council and the Grunion Gazette her thoughts, which I am sharing below. Join Lucy and others in getting Belmont Pool rebuilt correctly by logging on to www.facebook.com/RebuildBelmontPlazaOlympicPool:
Dear Mr. DeLong:
Thank you for your comments. I believe we are all in agreement on the need to move quickly on what Suzanne Fricke described as the "short-term solution" of constructing a temporary pool in the parking lot area. Where we disagree is over the long-term solution. You were not in attendance at the meeting Jan. 10 where Pat West, Ms. Fricke, and Eric Lopez presented their long-term solution, of building 2 pools, one indoor and one outdoor. So far so good.
However, all of the aquatics people in the room were stunned when City staff said the outdoor pool will be the competition pool, and the indoor pool will be a recreational pool. There are any number of reasons why the aquatics community does not accept that concept. One, the various major competitions in swimming and water polo that have been held at Belmont for many years primarily take place from November through May. These competitive events utilize Belmont specifically because not only is it a fast short course pool, but it is indoors, a major plus for events held during the colder months in Southern California.
We were further shocked when one member of the landscape design firm hired by the City stated that, "Our design meets all but national and international standards." What? Does City staff not understand the facility was built in the first place to host the 1968 Men's Swimming Olympic Trials? And that is has since been the venue for the 1976 Men's and Women's Swimming Olympic Trials, the 1974 and 1978 Men's NCAA Swimming & Diving Championships, and numerous Men's NCAA Water Polo National Championships, CIF championships, Southern California Swimming's Junior Nationals and Junior Olympics and many other events? These events not only showcase the many of best aquatic athletes in the world but also result in additional revenue to the City of Long Beach from the many, many hotel rooms booked and restaurant meals eaten by attendees at these events. How can the design for a new indoor pool NOT meet national and international standards?
As it is, many of these events no longer come to Belmont because of the deterioration of the facility over the years. I understand that CIF will not return. A popular swimming news web site based in Austin, TX, run by an Olympic gold medalist, (www.swimswam.com) posted four articles about the Pac12, PCSC, MPSF and SCIAC meets having to move out of Belmont for the second year in a row (http://swimswam.com/belmont-pool-closed-mens-pac-12-championships-likely-to-move-again/, http://swimswam.com/pcsc-moving-championships-as-well-invites-simon-fraser-to-the-party/, http://swimswam.com/sciac-moving-to-la-mirada-completes-clearing-out-of-belmont-schedule/, http://swimswam.com/d-1-mountain-pacific-sports-fed-moving-conference-meet-from-belmont/). Several of the comments in response to those articles are not flattering to the City of Long Beach.
As to your comment, "...(and perhaps other members of the aquatic community)...", I have spoken to and corresponded with numerous people in the aquatics community over the past two weeks, and have yet to find anyone who agrees with City staff or disagrees with me on the need for a new world-class competitive aquatics facility to replace Belmont, in the same location. We all fully support the need for a second pool to serve the recreational and teaching needs of the City, but fervently wish to see Long Beach return to the top ranks of aquatic opportunities in the U.S., as we once were, and truly be the Aquatic Capital of America.
When this issue comes up for discussion at the City Council, which I have been told will be on February 19, I would like to see that the short-term solution is approved by the Council, and that the necessary funds are appropriated to accomplish the task. As to the long-term solution, we would like to see the Council agree to the concept of constructing an indoor and an outdoor aquatics facility so that design work can continue, but that it is premature to approve any specific design concept or approve any funding for the project on that date while there is such a disparity between the City and the aquatics community over the form and function of the facilities.
I hope this email will assist you with your further analysis.
2402 Petaluma Avenue
Long Beach 90815