Design specifics are slated to be rolled out for the public this spring. And while the pool won't reopen for another three to four years, the completion of the design phase represents significant progress on the project.
The Gaffey Street ("Hey Rookie") Pool -- at 3351 S. Gaffey St., inside Angels Gate Park -- was built in 1943 on what was the former Fort MacArthur military base.
Later, it became a summer haven to generations of children who grew up in San Pedro, offering a picturesque, tree-shaded pool with the ocean within view to the south.
"It's a historic monument, it's a beautiful facility," said Michael Shull, superintendent of planning for the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks. "It's going to be a real gem for the San Pedro community."
Money for the project is in hand, thanks to nearly $7 million earmarked by the Port of Los Angeles from the China Shipping judgment several years ago.
When it finally reopens, it will be operated as a seasonal city pool open to the public during the summer months.
"We're very excited about this project," Shull said.
The pool has a storied past that has been chronicled by the Fort MacArthur Museum. An example of mid-20th century modernism, the pool was built with funds raised from an Army road show called "Hey Rookie" that starred red-haired actor Sterling Holloway, then a soldier stationed at Fort MacArthur and later a regular on the "Life of Riley" television show from 1953-58. He died in 1992 at the age of 87.
"Hey Rookie" was an Army parody -- written as a morale-booster for the troops -- that was featured in local performances at the Belasco Theater in Los Angeles and the Long Beach Municipal Auditorium (April 28-29, 1942).
Memorabilia from the show -- including 78-rpm record albums, sheet music and photographs -- is in the museum's collection.
The road show raised $250,000, which was used to build the Gaffey Street Pool and a second pool that is still in use for military personnel on Fort MacArthur's lower reservation.
The pool was used for synchronized swim shows for the troops based at Fort MacArthur and opened to the general public in 1954. It was later added to the national Register of Historic Places.
Restoring the pool has long been a dream of local military historians at the museum. But repairs were estimated to cost at least $1 million, money the museum never could find by way of a donation or grant.
The port approved the nearly $7 million for the pool in 2009, which allowed city engineers to proceed with testing and designs.
There was some speculation that the pool would never reopen because of land stability issues.
Geotechnical reports, however, have concluded that the pool is well-built and on stable land, Shull said.
The new designs include ideas for providing access to the pool from Gaffey Street. A rickety staircase leading up to the pool from Gaffey was taken down years ago.
Steve Nelson, director of the city-run Fort MacArthur museum, said keeping the pool as historically accurate is important.
"There's going to have to be some modifications, but as a purist - and I am a purist - there are things I'm not going to be comfortable with," Nelson said. "I do foresee some battles in the future. ... But we have to keep in mind the main objective, which is having a usable pool."
The city's Bureau of Engineering has "some good ideas to keep it historic while still celebrating" the present era, said Mark Mariscal, region superintendent for the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks.
Provisions will include making the pool handicapped accessible, he said.
The designs will be presented to neighborhood councils tentatively this spring.
"I think the public will be pleasantly surprised," Mariscal said.
Nelson said the long wait was frustrating at times, but that enthusiasm remains high now that the pool project is making progress.
"Some of the veterans who helped build it in 1943 have passed away and I'd hoped they'd be able to see it," Nelson said.
Follow Donna Littlejohn on Twitter at http://twitter.com/donnalittlejohn