Making Democracy Work

Aquatic Facilities in Salem (2001)

Is there a need for one or more new public aquatic facilities in Salem? In order to answer this question, the following information regarding pool resources throughout the city, as well as information on availability and charges for using those pools, should be considered.

What pools are currently available to the public and to what extent are they used?

1. Olinger Pool is the only public year-round (i.e. covered) pool in Salem. It is used to full capacity all year around for swim classes and general recreational use. Fees for services are low. This pool cannot accommodate any more people than it now serves.

2. Walker Pool in West Salem is an outdoor pool, open from late spring to early fall only. It is regularly used to full capacity for classes and general recreational swimming during its open season. Fees are low and charged on a per-use or per-class basis.

What, if any, other pools are already available for possible public pool development?

1. Leslie Pool at South Salem High School is an outdoor pool that is currently closed due to a need for repairs. Estimates offered in 1992 for bringing Leslie Pool up to appropriate standards ranged from $300,000 to $700,000. There were unknown repair issues, however, which made the actual cost difficult to estimate. Also, the proposed renovations did not include a pool cover that would allow use of the pool in the winter.

2. Sprague High School, and possibly McNary High and McKay High as well, were each built with plumbing in place for a swimming pool. It is believed that the plumbing is unavailable for pool development, however, because there has since been construction above the plumbed sub-surfaces.

What is the status of limited-public-access pools such as the YWCA and YMCA and other pools requiring membership in non-profit or for-profit organizations?

1. YWCA of Salem has the only indoor warm-water pool available for public use in Salem. Swim classes, hydro-therapy, scuba training and recreational swimming are offered. The pool is open year around but is used to full capacity during the summer season only. The rest of the year, pool use is at approximately two-thirds capacity. The pool is fully handicapped-accessible. Salem Aquatics Club rents the pool for its swim team practices.

Membership in the YWCA is required by users at a nominal annual membership fee of $7 (for children), $15 (for teens) or $30 (for adults) in 2000. The YWCA keeps swim fees affordable to all. Revenues from pool activities do not meet the costs of staff and maintenance. Therefore, the YWCA has had to subsidize its pool operations through revenue from other activities and donations at approximately $15,000 per year over the five-year period ending in 2000. There is no apparent limit to the number of memberships that are available.

2. YMCA pool is available for swimming classes and recreational swimming. There is a warm, shallow pool in addition to the main pool. Membership is required; there is a one-time joining fee of $79; thereafter the monthly fee is $44 for an individual or $66 for a family (in 2000). There may be some low-cost memberships available for children in the summer months, and daily use fees for non-members (at $5.00 per day) may be available for pool use. Statistical information is not available regarding YMCA pool usage or whether current pool income meets expenses of staff and maintenance.

3. There are a number of private, community-based membership-only pools throughout the city. These include Salem Tennis & Swim Club, Madrona Swim Club, Englewood Pool, Cambridge Pool and Jan Ree Pool. Although precise information is unavailable, it appears that memberships in these pools are limited and there may be waiting lists. Costs are prohibitive to many Salem families.

4. The Courthouse Athletic Clubs have swimming pools in each of their four present locations throughout the city. Construction of a new facility in South Salem has been announced publicly. Club memberships, which allow access to all activities of the fitness center, are required for pool use. Those memberships, which may be too expensive for many community residents, appear to be available at all locations.

5. Private Pools: A variety of pools in Salem are operated in conjunction with hotels, motels, retirement facilities, Willamette University, Chemawa School, Salem Hospital, Illahe Country Club, etc. These pools are generally unavailable for public recreational use.

Programs currently offered:

1. Basic water-safety and survival swim classes for children and adults of all ages. These programs appear to be at full capacity in the summer months, with availability at YWCA and YMCA during other seasons.

2. Swimming skill classes at Beginning, Intermediate and Advanced levels. Same availability as #1 above.

3. Swim teams and water sports programs. These programs are "making do" with currently available facilities, which are generally inadequate for competitive swimming purposes.

4. Conditioning programs such as lap swims and water aerobic exercise programs and water- therapy programs for people with arthritic conditions, orthopedic injuries or other special needs. The YWCA has the only warm-water pool, other than Salem Hospital pool which is not available to the public.

5. General recreation (i.e. open swims). There is no real evidence as to whether the current availability is sufficient to meet the potential demand if more facilities were available. On
the other hand, new facilities would decrease some of the current participation in the existing facilities.

Programs not currently offered, but desirable:

1. Pool activities requiring Olympic-sized pool facilities: such as racing and competitive swim team activities.

2. Fun-center activities for children and teens, such as wave pool, weightless fountain pool, fun slides.

3. Sufficient affordable and accessible public (i.e., non-membership) pool facilities to serve all residents of our growing city, especially in the summertime when current pools are already at full capacity.

What types of facilities might be considered, if further pool development is deemed appropriate? What are the advantages and challenges of each type?

One large, centrally-located, aquatic facility.


1. Could include three or four different pools under one roof, thereby accommodating a variety of swimming levels, pool activities and special needs at the same time.

2. Could include a gymnasium, exercise rooms, restaurant, children's fun center, child care, etc., all under one roof.

3. Could accommodate district-wide swim meets and other tourist-generating uses.

4. Construction and maintenance would be less expensive than for a multiplicity of smaller neighborhood facilities because of economies of scale and non-duplication of certain staffing requirements.

5. Could be well-connected to public transportation opportunities and reasonably equi-distant from all areas of the city.

6. Could provide a safe place for after-school activities for all school-age children and teens.

7. Urban Renewal funds could be available for development costs in the downtown core area.


1. Upfront development cost would be very high (an estimate from a citizen-based group, with the help of an architectural firm, was $11.5 million, exclusive of land cost). Voter support could be difficult because of other service priorities needing public funding.

2. There is limited land available in the downtown area and it would be expensive to acquire such land.

3. Parking for automobiles would be difficult to find in the downtown core area.

4. Access by public transportation would be more difficult for children residing in outlying areas of the city and especially for young children (those under age 12).

5. Where would the facility be located? Various options include Cascade Gateway Park, Fairview, downtown, Chemeketa Community College, Wallace Marine Park, or one of the high schools.

6. There may be opposition from the private sector pool operators, who may view the new facility as competition.

Several neighborhood pools throughout the city (for instance, Olinger to be maintained, Walker to be covered, Leslie to be repaired, and new pools built in North Salem/Keizer and East Salem, for a total of five public year-round pools).


1. Convenient, safe access by children and families in each local area/neighborhood.

2. Limited parking facilities would be required at each location because many people could walk or bicycle to the pool or use public transit.

3. Convenient, safe center for after-school activities.

4. Neighborhood associations could generate support for the necessary financial outlays.


1. Retrofitting the older pools would be expensive and there are many unknowns as to what is actually needed to make Leslie fully usable.

2. Land would have to be purchased for new pools in North Salem and East Salem.

3. Staffing and maintenance costs would be higher than at a single central facility because of necessary duplication of certain services at each location.

4. The demand for services at each location could vary significantly. While one facility might be very busy, another might be under-utilized.

5. Because of the smaller size of each neighborhood facility, the available uses would be more limited than in a large central facility.

6. Funding difficulties: Urban Renewal funds would not be available outside the downtown core area. Other priorities exist for capital expenditures: fire and safety needs, wastewater treatment plant development needs, etc.

7. There could be opposition from owners of currently-existing private and non-profit membership pools because of the competition.

What options are available for raising the money for initial construction, land purchase costs, etc., of new or refurbished pool facilities?

Bond Measure: In order to qualify for this option, the pool(s) must be on the Capital Improvement Priority List and/or be on the `02 Parks Bond list. Otherwise, it could be a long time in the future before such an option will become available due to competing needs for funding to meet other necessary local capital improvements.

Private Funding: A local group, some of whose members are associated with the Salem Aquatic Club, is forming a non-profit corporation for the purpose of raising money to build an aquatic facility that would accommodate the group's competitive swimming activities and other uses. There are indications that the group may already have a commitment for a large donation that would support construction of such a facility.

Urban Renewal Funds: These funds might be available if a new aquatic center were built in conjunction with a downtown conference center.

Lottery funds or Measure 66 funds: These state funds are available for repairs to outdoor facilities only.

Land and Water Conservation Funds: These federal funds are available for outdoor facilities only.

What options are available for funding and maintaining the operations of public pools in Salem, if current services are expanded?

- User fees
- Reducing expenditures for other city services
- Seeking private or foundation funds, such as grants
- Other revenue sources (for example, a dedicated tax for operations and maintenance)

Which of the following would be appropriate choices for ongoing operation and maintenance of public aquatic facilities in the Salem area?

- Salem Parks and Recreation Department
- Salem-Keizer School District 24J
- Marion and Polk Counties
- Chemeketa Community College
- Shared financial responsibility among agencies
- Separate Regional Aquatic District
- Public-Private partnership between Salem and a non-profit or for-profit organization
- Other
The committee, initially chaired by Berri Sellers and later by Ann Gavin Sample, included Bea Epperson, Janet Markee, Mary Stillings, Tina Hansen, Cindy Burgess, Joan Harmsen and Sandra Gangle.

The report was published in 2001.