Coronado Struggles to Pay for Pool

Pool costs $25K a month to operate

Officials in Coronado were recently left scrambling to find a way to keep the high school's Olympic-size pool open.

The Brian Bent Memorial Aquatics Complex is bleeding about $25,000 a month, a loss of about $8,000 a month, according to Unified School District Superintendent Jeffrey Felix.

"The community several years ago had great debate on whether to build it, and now that its built, the community is having a great debate on whether to afford it," Felix said.

Four years ago, the local school board OK'd the construction of the nearly $9 million complex with the caveat that a community group run the pool and pay for maintenance. The city's residents amassed a $1.2 million endowment for the complex, but the pool foundation has been burning through that sum. At this point, there is about $650,000 left.

The pool on Sixth Street just off of Orange Avenue opened just 20 months ago.

Here's a tip for people who need money: Make sure your Donate Page is working on your Web site. When we checked on Monday morning, the pool's donations page  had a "This page is currently undergoing scheduled maintenance" message posted on it.

The pool plan went wrong on several fronts: Pool rentals and fundraising have proceeded slower than expected since the pool's opening, and the bills are much, much higher than anticipated. Complicating the issue: the city just refurbished its own giant pool and charged two bucks to swim, versus the complex's $5, according to the paper, prompting the school pool to cut $3 from its nonschool admission price

Even if the pool is closed, somebody has to shell out $258 daily for "feeding the beast," as school board president Doug Metz is quoted in the paper, just to keep the pool pumps from turning the site into a West Nile factory. For those of you keeping score, that's more than $94,000 a year.

For now, the schools are keeping the pool open until at least December, provide the endowment stays above $560,000. That's about $90,000 from now.

Superintendent Jeffrey Felix, like the leaders of all California school districts, is wrestling with a shrinking budget. He said he has cancelled phys-ed swimming for sixth through ninth grades and was also mulling sending the school's champion water polo team to another pool, presumably the city's a mile and half away.

Felix recommends shutting down the pool temporarily

"It needs time to recover," Felix said. "We need to do a new business plan."

Felix said he would like to limit the school's use to interscholastic sports -- water polo and swimming -- and rent the pool out to organizations during the other time the school had been using the pool. While the school is tied into the complex, it can be isolated locked, then rented out during school hours.

"We have had teams come from around the world to use the pool," Felix said.

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