Northern Portland Is Building a $102 Million Aquatics Center to Solve a Decade of Drought

by Ruth Beadle 24

December 25th, 2023 Club, High School, News

Portland Parks and Recreation is building a brand new $102 million indoor aquatics facility, leaving the community of Northern Portland without year-round pool access until Winter 2029 at the earliest.

The North Portland community has been without a year-round facility since the initial closure of the almost hundred-year-old Columbia Pool in 2020 due to COVID. By the end of the project, locals will lack easy access to lap swimming, lessons, and aerobic classes year-round for almost a full decade. 

This proves significant, as the Parks and Recreation identified this area as having inadequate access to aquatic facilities. In response, the City made all North Portlanders eligible for a free pass at the Matt Dishman Community center.

Another consequence is the strained swim team practice space at Dishman pool in Northeast Portland. The Northern Portland Roosevelt High School swim team last season had up to four lanes for 30-40 swimmers due to sharing practice time with Jefferson High School. The Portland Aquatic Club team also uses that space, practicing before the two high school teams. Swimmers from Roosevelt travel 6.1 miles for their hour time slot. 

The New Facility

Dana Vollmer-Grant, five-time Olympic gold medalist and former world record holder, is helping ELS Architecture and Urban Design with the project. Vollmer-Grant is an Associate at ELS, working with the company since 2017. 

The proposed facility will have a 35-meter pool intended for school aquatics programs and competitive swimming. There will also be a pool for slides and water-play features. The facility will also accommodate persons with disabilities with beach entries, lifts, benches, and warmer water. This will be larger in scale than Columbia, which was a 25 yd x 25 yd pool

The new location at Northgate Park will be 1.8 miles from the Columbia Pool site. Parks and Rec selected the area through community input and equity factors

Community Involvement

Vollmer-Grant attended a community meeting in early 2023 to describe plans to the public and to discuss potential sites. Vollmer-Grant said to Pamplin Media that the City is “running one of the most in depth, inclusive community engagement processes that I have been a part of.” 

The Olympian’s presence marks only one of the numerous public meetings and town halls concerning plans and decisions about the project. The public was included in decisions such as location, questioning of budgeting and plans, determining desired programming and more. The community is working with the hired Project Advisory Committee that serves as a liaison between Parks and Rec and the community. 

A portion of the community has continuously expressed distress for the loss of Columbia pool and time. A group called the Save Columbia Pool Coalition has called for the money spent on the project to be reallocated to making the renovations to Columbia Pool. Parks and Recreation could not fund the repairs due to an overwhelmed city maintenance budget, leading to their decision to permanently close the pool in December 2022. 

The group maintains that the funds from the new pool can be reallocated for the estimated $500,000 full assessment of the pool and the estimated $5-10 million in repairs. The still-active Facebook group has 936 members that can be publicly viewed. 

The project is about to transition into the third phase, which is developing design, choosing administrative construction and contractors, and finishing construction documents and permitting. This phase is estimated to last until Winter 2026. 

In This Story

Leave a Reply

Notify of

oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
5 months ago

$100m+ and not even 50m lol

This Guy
5 months ago

Does USA swimming do much advocating in new pool design and construction? They should use their influence to get better competition pools built as that would increase their membership. Advocating for a 50 meter pool in this scenario provides more pool space for a team or multiple teams to utilize and expand their membership subsequently increasing USA Swimming’s revenue.

This Guy
5 months ago

Is there a breakdown of the different costs associated with this project? I would be super interested in seeing what is causing the crazy price tag.

If this cost is going to be the trend, swimming won’t stand a chance in the long run

Last edited 5 months ago by This Guy
This Guy
Reply to  This Guy
5 months ago

Unless the land cost 75 million dollars I don’t see a universe where something like this gets approved in any municipality. I’m all for building pools but come on. You could build a minimum of 4 separate 50 meter pool facilities for that cost and fund them operationally for ten years. Want proof? Look at other places that have done just that in the past 5-10 years.

What are we doing?

5 months ago

Full beans?

5 months ago

Probably about 3 lanes of 4 ft deep for lessons and playing before going into a deep end for bulk head and 25 yards.

Alex Wilson
5 months ago

It seems to me a bit strange to build a 35 meter pool when a 50 meter pool is required for international type competition. Is 35 meters a misprint?

Reply to  Alex Wilson
5 months ago

According to this website:

the new pool will be 35m x 25 yards.

The swimswam article doesn’t say anything about “international type competition”. So, I don’t think the intent is to build that kind of facility. The pool it is replacing (Columbia) was 25yards x 25yards.

For the 35m dimension, i would imagine that there will be a bulkhead separating one part of the pool from another, so there could be a cool down area. If I am right about that, it could probably be set up for SCM competitions.

5 months ago

I need to start a construction company if this is the price for a facility.

5 months ago

Might as well be a 102 million dollar toilet

Reply to  bubo
5 months ago

Hate swimming, huh?