After several years of being closed for a multimillion dollar overhaul, a historic swimming pool in Mission Beach is hoping to once again make a splash in San Diego’s history.
The Plunge pool – originally dubbed the “Natatorium” – has been a centerpiece of Belmont Park since 1925 when it was donated to the City of San Diego by John D. Spreckels.
In 2012, San Diego-based Pacifica Enterprises acquired a lease agreement with the City of San Diego for Belmont Park. By then, the Plunge had fallen into disrepair. The indoor pool was closed in 2014 due to safety and maintenance issues.
In April 2015, the San Diego City Council announced Belmont Park would receive $18 million-worth of improvements, including a multimillion renovation of the Plunge pool.
The renovation of the pool would be done through a public-private partnership in which Pacifica Enterprises would advance $5.2 million for the renovation of the city-owned property. The company would recoup its investment through rent credits over the next seven to 10 years.
In February 2017, Pacifica Enterprises broke ground on the large-scale project.
The plan was to restore the beachfront pool to its 1925 glory and house it inside a new state-of-the-art fitness center operated by Fit Athletic Club at Belmont Park. At that time, the developers said they would aim to reopen the pool by 2019.
Come Thursday, they will make good on that promise.
The Plunge, located at 3115 Ocean Front Walk, will reopen on the Fourth of July – 94 years after its original debut.
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and community leaders celebrated the grand reopening of the landmark at a ceremony Wednesday. The event included, fittingly, an inaugural first “plunge” into the revamped 395,000-gallon swimming pool.
While the facility is shiny and new, it still honors its historic connection to San Diego. For instance, the tiles that line Plunge were inspired by the 1920s. The original archways of the landmark were recreated at the north entrance. Outside, two memorial plaques explain the significance of Plunge.
The facility also includes a fully retractable roof to really take in those scenic ocean views.
“The restoration of the Plunge is the perfect example of how a public-private partnership can breathe new life into our community assets,” Faulconer said at the opening celebration Wednesday. “As I just stand here and the roof is open, the architecture stunning, the natural light – this really is taking it to the next generation.”
For Mission Beach natives seeing the Plunge up and running again brought back a wave of memories.
“Well, I was first in this pool in the late 1930s, as a young lad,” local Terry Curren told NBC 7. “Later on, when I was a lifeguard, I took my swimming test in the pool.”
“We’d come down to the pool to see the girls,” recounted Mission Beach native Phillip Prather.
“I have a photo of my grandfather here in 1925,” said Mission Beach resident Jeanne Lenhart. “My brothers, my mother, my father, my grandfather – everybody swam here.”
This month, as locals and visitors get to once again know the facility, Plunge’s “preview hours” will be 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
“It was closed in and damp and dank, and now it’s open and fresh air coming in; it’s gorgeous,” added Curren.
The pool will officially reopen in August, with a range of daily and monthly Plunge passes available for purchase. For example, a $15 daily pass for adults age 18 to 64 includes access to Plunge, the locker room, the sauna, and aqua classes. To learn more about Plunge, click here.