In three weeks, the Vashon Pool will end its summer season and undergo construction work before opening for the first time for year-round use under a temporary, inflatable bubble. In preparation for this, both the Seals Swim Team and Vashon’s park district are continuing efforts to ensure the project’s success.
The swim team, which has been spearheading the effort to cover the pool and is raising the funds to do so, is hosting a fundraiser Friday in the form of a pool marathon. More than $40,000 is still needed to fund the purchase of the temporary, inflatable dome and the cost of other improvements to the facility. Seals board president Karin Choo said last week the team has raised about $60,000 of its $100,000 goal.
“We’ve been making a lot of progress with fundraising. It’s coming along,” she said at last Tuesday’s Vashon Park District (VPD) board meeting, where park district staff also discussed the pool’s year-round operating plan.
Friday’s fundraiser — the SWIMVASHON Dawn ’Til Dusk Pool Marathon — will, as the name suggests, take place all day at the Vashon Pool. From 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., islanders are encouraged to register and swim as far as they can in 90 minutes. Prices are $25 for adults, $15 for children ages 7-18 and $50 for families with two or more children. All are invited regardless of swimming ability, and prizes will be awarded by age category for distance, costumes, fun and effort.
“Tots can swim with parents, families can swim together, and young or inexperienced swimmers can use a noodle or a life-jacket,” the event’s webpage indicates.
SWIMVASHON was born out of the annual swim marathon the Seals hold each year just for the team. Seals swimmers gather pledges from family and friends, and money is raised for each lap swum.
“We’ve been thinking about making it (the swim marathon) a community-wide event since we knew that we would be doing a major fundraising push for this bubble,” Choo said.
In the interest of simplicity, Friday’s event will have a flat registration fee instead of per-lap pledges.
She said that while fundraising has been going well with large gifts from major island donors and sponsorships from businesses, she wants the whole community involved in the process and hopes this event can accomplish that.
“We want really big community buy-in,” she said. “This event isn’t expensive, but we need a lot of people to participate.”
In addition to swimmers going the distance, there will be a water polo invitational where members of the public and friends and family of the Vashon Fireballs water polo team can play a game with Fireballs players. Choo said no prior water polo experience is needed to play, and those who are interested in learning the basics should show up around 9:30 a.m.
Multiple exhibition games, including one that has become a tradition and pits Fireballs players against their parents, will be played with players grouped by experience level. No lap-swimming will happen during the invitational from 9:45 to 11:15 a.m.
Food will also be available for purchase all day.
While the Seals are busy securing funds, Vashon Park District staff has been at work on the off-season pool plan. The district’s new operations director, Kelly Schmidt, last Tuesday presented an updated version of the plan originally brought to the VPD board by the Seals. Her updated plan does not change the amount of public swim hours offered under the Seals original proposal — 23 hours of lap and public swim per week — but rearranges the hours to include afternoon and evening swim sessions instead of one block in the afternoon.
Her plan also calls for a return to programming, including First Friday pool events for families, the continuation of swim lessons and the potential for kayaking, SCUBA diving, triathlon training and lifeguard training classes.
“Its (this plan) is not by any stretch a full-blown recreation program, but I think it will create a happier community,” Schmidt said. “This is a user-friendly and thoughtful approach to planning and operations.”
Once the pool is covered, public lap swimming will occur 6 to 9 a.m. Mondays and Wednesdays; public open swim will occur from noon to 3 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays; and open/lap swim will be held 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. Group swim lessons will be offered 11 a.m. to noon on Saturdays. The pool will be closed to the public and available only for private rentals on Sundays.
The Seals will use the pool for practice from 3 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.
Under Schmidt’s plan, the covered pool is estimated to cost VPD $45,553 annually, $10,000 less than what was projected in the Seals’ original proposal. Schmidt said the difference is due to her taking a second look at the proposal, cutting unnecessary staff and using current pool attendance and drop-in numbers to estimate off-season revenue.
The VPD board commended Schmidt’s work and her efforts to bring more programming to the district.
VPD Executive Director Elaine Ott said that the district has the structure now to “ramp up” programming after nearly five years of financial hardship that prevented it. Programming was substantially cut in 2013 when a lean VPD budget put the largest burden of programming on individual clubs.
Joe Wubbold, a retired Coast Guard captain who has been following VPD’s actions for many years, said he was encouraged by the discussions at last Tuesday’s board meeting.
“It is heartening to see the wheel go back up to the top. This is what you all promised when you were elected, and I am delighted that all of these things are happening,” he said.
Those interested in volunteering at the SWIMVASHON pool marathon as lap counters, snack bar cashiers or any other needed positions should email Karin Choo at email@example.com.