A downturn in the price of oil (upon which Long Beach’s economy is highly dependent) has stalled the launching of the rebuild of the famed Belmont Plaza Pool, but after a city council meeting on Thursday evening, it appears that the project is back on the rails – with some tweaks.
Inflation in construction costs have driven the estimate of the originally-envisioned project up to an estimated $145 million, up from the $103 million project approval, which itself was an increase from the $60-ish million original plan. Among the stated drivers for the gap is the new federal government tariffs placed on importing construction materials. That gap has driven community organizers to work with the government on a rethink that includes changing the facility to an outdoor facility.
The old Belmont Plaza Olympic Pool was torn down in 2014 over concerns about its ability to withstand an earthquake. That facility had been one of the last options on the west coast (along with the King County Aquatic Center in Seattle) to host major long course championship meets indoors. That pool was built to host the 1968 U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials, and wound up hosting many huge meets – including the 1976 Trials, the 1974 NCAA Championships, and the 1978 NCAA Championships. While still getting a lot of use, the upgrades necessary to make it safe were estimated around $23 million.
Currently, $61 million are set aside to fund the new project, meaning that there’s a gap of around $21 million still to close.
The most current plan still is moving forward with the beach location, though the Long Beach Coastal Commission has preferred an alternate site downtown.
The facility has been identified as a priority ahead of the Los Angeles 2028 Olympic Games, along with a rebuilding of the Belmont Pier to host the sailing events, new beach concession stands, a new hotel in downtown Long Beach, and improvements to public transportation. When Los Angeles bid to host the 2012 Olympics, the old Belmont Plaza Olympic Pool was under consideration to host diving; that is still being considered for the new pool (which would require a 10,000 seat temporary grandstand).
The new vision for the pool would be scaled back from the original plans, but would still leave the facility capable of hosting major meets. Among the features in what is called the “probable path forward”:
- A 50-meter by 25-yard outdoor pool
- 1,500 permanent spectators seats
- Recreational/play/therapy pool
- The current temporary outdoor pool at the site would be made permanent to give the facility 2 50-meter pools
- The diving well and towers would be outside at the Northeast corner of the project
This new “probable path,” pending approval from the Coastal Commission, is estimated to take 3 years to complete (6 months for Coastal Commission review and approval, 12 months for pre-construction planning, bidding and contracting, and 18 months for construction).