The demolition of the building that hosted the old Belmont Pool will begin in late September, and hopes by local organizers to salvage some of the hallmark parts of the building are growing increasingly unlikely.
With the building closed off to all but the project manager and demolition personnel at this point (and with even the demolition personnel trying to minimize their time inside the building), memories already made will have to suffice for most who have come through the pool in its long and storied history.
While some items will be removed, such as the original dedication plaque as well as the pictures and trophies in the front lobby, others icons like the murals that overlook the pool, and the pool tiles themselves, could not be reasonably saved.
For the murals, when exploring the possibility of salvage, it was discovered that they were not painted on ceramic tiles as was expected. Instead, they were painted on “acoustic tiles” like those typically used on ceilings.
After decades hanging in the damp environment of a pool, these murals may not even survive any effort to save them, thus making the city balk at the $20,000 price tag set for their removal. There is a search, however, for the original artist (the murals were not signed) and perhaps a recreation attempt in the new facility.
As for the pool tiles, which organizers had hoped could be used as a fundraising effort to raise money to finish off the new pool, it turns out that the tiles in both the pool and the locker room were made with lead, as was standard practice at the time for ceramic tiles. The hazard associated with lead adds a whole new layer of complexity to any salvage efforts.
For most of the interior, the plan will be to demolish the building and sort through the rubble to see if anything worth saving came out alive.
There is currently conversations as to whether an effort to save the flag poles and flags inside the pool would be worth the effort. According to Lucy Johnson, the quoted cost to salvage the flags was $1,400. They are currently exploring whether or not there is enough interest in purchasing those flags by fans to warrant the expenditure – the flags are not original, and were replaced about 10 years ago.
The Belmont Plaza pool was built in 1968 and hosted the 1968 and 1976 U.S. Olympic swimming trials, the 1974 and 1978 NCAA swimming championships, several editions of the NCAA water polo championships, and a number of other high-level events. Though it had long lost it’s spot on the national circuit, it was a crucial part of the Pac Ten/Pac-12, and broader Southern California, swimming infrastructure as one of the only options for indoor long course championship swimming in the region.
After several years of uncertainty about the viability of continued use at the 40-year old facility, in early 2013 the City of Long Beach officially announced that the pool would be closed for good. Since then, local government officials and leaders within the swimming community have been working toward a permanent replacement for Belmont. While there are still some details of that permanent plan that are being negotiated, a temporary outdoor 50 meter pool has been constructed in the facility’s parking lot to satisfy the needs of the local community until the new indoor facility is complete.