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Whitmore Pool is a dump

November 16, 2012

In the frantic effort to keep the Whitmore Pool open for next summer, it has been easy to ignore the fact that the pool itself is a dump.

The best thing it has going for it is the 360-degree view, but that really doesn’t have anything to do with the pool itself. The view will stay there, and might even be improved once the unsightly tangle of the antiquated pool is removed.

The concrete decks at the pool are on constant danger of collapse. The infrastructure of the thing is so old that replacement parts (heaters, pumps, etc.) are hard to come by, if not impossible. The showers are useless, and as cold as a banker’s heart.

The hot spring waters that used to flow under the pool are no longer hot—the result of the earthquake swarms way back in the long ago.

What’s more, it is a crummy lap pool, only 25 meters when most decent pools are 50 meters.

It is going to have to be replaced, and soon. The town’s parks superintendent, the ever-imaginative Dennis Rottner, says the pool might last another year or two, or maybe 10, depending on how much baling wire and chewing gum his crew can gather.

That’s why the debate over the pool for next year is something of a chimera. The real debate, the one that matters, has hardly been discussed at all.

The town’s Recreation Commission opened the subject this past week at its regular meeting. The Town Council then took over, as in a relay race.

Recreation Commissioner Sean Turner opened the discussion with a forceful point of attack. He wants to know how much it will cost to build a new pool, and where it would be.

So would we.

Rich Boccia, the schools superintendent, says he has an answer, at least in concept. The center’s construction cost would come in at about $29 million, with a total cost, once amenities are added, of about $35 million.

Various funding sources, such as bonding Measure R monies, shifting transient occupancy tax funds and so on, all are on the table.

The center would be situated in the education complex on Lower Meridian Boulevard, on land owned by the school district, Mono County, and Cerro Coso College. Imagine a swimming pool within the town limits, hey?

Boccia’s argument is that the town at some point must stop “nickel-and-diming” its way through Measure R funds—that Mammoth needs to build a big-ticket item that makes sense.

That big-ticket item is an aquatics center, and much of the planning for that already is done.

Boccia, working with the South Gateway Partners, has drawn up a “Recreation Action Plan” that includes, front and center, an aquatics center.

It would be a 38,000 square-foot indoor venue with a six-lane pool and 6,000 feet of recreation space.

It might seem borderline insane to start planning a major project in the midst of the town’s fiscal crisis and during a national recession.

But it would be even more insane to think that Whitmore Pool will last forever.

Its lease with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power expired in 2007. The town is negotiating a new, five-year lease on that property.

That would give the town just (barely) enough time to figure out what it wants to do with aquatic sport.

In the meantime, let’s just face the facts, can’t we?

Whitmore Pool is a dump and needs to be replaced. Currently, the only thing it has going for it is a load of sentiment, and a couple dozen lap swimmers.

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