WASILLA — The Wasilla Pool will finally be open after the 38-year-old facility received just over 12 months of renovations following a bond initiative that passed Mat-Su Borough voters in 2016.
The ribbon on the new pool will be cut at 1 p.m. on Friday at the Wasilla Pool adjacent to Wasilla High School on 701 East Bogard Road. Following the ribbon cutting the pool will be open for free swims from 2 p.m. until 9 p.m.
“I think the excitement level is going to be high. I think people are going to want to see what the new facility looks like and actually on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday for two hour blocks for during each of those days we’re going to just do open swims and it’s going to be free of charge,” said Mat-Su Borough Recreational & Library Manager Hugh Leslie.
The Wasilla Pool was closed for nearly 13 months, forcing the Wasilla swim teams to travel across the Valley to the Palmer Pool. The price for the much-needed Wasilla Pool upgrades were $5.5 million dollars. The Palmer Pool subsequently suffered crowding issues due to the year-long closure of the Wasilla Pool. The Wasilla Pool opens on Friday, and for the first time ever it will be long enough to hold regulation swim meets.
“We know people are going to want to get in and want to go swimming and we can only bring 105 people in the pool at the time and we wanted to give the public ample opportunity to see the facility and get their feet wet,” Leslie said.
The Wasilla Pool opened in 1980 and not only provides a home for swim teams, but Leslie estimates that the pools combined offer over 30,000 individual swim lessons per year. With the wide variety of outdoor bodies of water to choose from, the ability to swim often becomes a life or death matter on Valley lakes and rivers.
“We really go a long way towards giving people those skills to swim to shore or swim to stay with the boat if they are ever knocked out of the boat,” Leslie said.
A new feature unrelated to the bond package from the Borough is the introduction of online signup for swim lessons. The feature is already in use at the Palmer Pool and will be introduced at the Wasilla Pool in a few weeks, according to Leslie.
“Parents don’t have to wait in line any more, they go on the Borough website, fill out a registration, pay their money via secure network and their kids are signed up for swim lessons. So instead of having to leave work and wait in line, you can do it on your lunch,” Leslie said.
The old pools have needed repair and become outdated. Leslie said that the air handling and air filtration systems and lights had lasted their useful life span and were outdated and inefficient. Leslie said that repair parts were difficult to find and following a feasibility study on the pools and the Brett Ice Arena, there were code compliance issues found.
“There’s really no way to measure how badly performing the old equipment was. The new equipment is going to operate at a substantially better efficiency level,” Leslie said.
Electricity costs paid by the pool, which is now completely separate from the WHS building itself, will be significantly lower due to LED lights. Without any utilities coming from the school, the Pool will have better control over their facility. Leslie said that nearly every aspect of the operation and configuration of the pool has been changed, and praised Orion Construction in their work to complete the renovations.
“We were very pleased at what not only how efficient they were and how hard they worked, but I think the overall finished project exceeded my expectations of what it was going to look like,” Leslie said.
Now that the Wasilla Pool is finished, the Palmer Pool will be closed on May 24. The expected reopening of the Palmer Pool is not until May 1, 2020.