LONG BEACH - The preliminary plans for a new Belmont Plaza Pool are moving off the drawing board, but have already received criticism from the diving community.

Even Olympic diving gold medalist Greg Louganis, who once trained at the pool, is weighing in.

The main concern for a new pool - to replace the structure that officials announced Monday is being permanently shuttered due to seismic safety problems - is the apparent lack of diving features.

Seasoned swimmers have been scrambling to organize a bloc of support for the diving equipment, and a meeting has been scheduled for tonight at 6, at La Palapa restaurant, 4020 E. Olympic Plaza, to discuss a strategy for Tuesday's City Council meeting, when various plans for a new facility could be mapped out.

Debby McCormick, a swimming coach, said divers weren't alerted to the public outreach sessions on the pool planning.

"We're finding out about everything after the fact," she said, adding that city planners were "catering only to swimming and water polo" athletes.

"It just shocks me that no one in diving has been consulted," she said.

Louganis wrote in an email sent Monday to Councilman Gary DeLong that was obtained by the Press-Telegram: "What a perfect opportunity to celebrate this beautiful sport by building a brand new state of the art facility. ... This facility was crucial for my preparation for my first Olympic Games in 1976, in which I earned a silver medal.


Advertisement

"

As proposed, the new pool would cost $54 million to $62 million, and construction would take two to three years to complete, city officials said. Funding would be through Tidelands resources and not through the city's general fund.

Tom Modica, the city's government affairs manager, said Tuesday the low range of $54 million would be without diving equipment, while the high range of $62 million would include the diving equipment.

Recreational and competitive swimming needs will be part of the new pool design, Modica said.

"The proposed facility will be able to host all competitive swim and water polo events that are currently hosted, while providing added water space to enhance the experience of all users," he said.

However, he emphasized, the state Coastal Commission staff has notified the city that any replacement facility "must provide broad-based recreational opportunities, and consequently, expressed their reluctance to recommend approval of a competitively-focused aquatics facility."

As now proposed, the indoor pool would be 50 meters by 25 yards, and about half the pool will consist of shallow water (3.5 feet to 4.5 feet), while the rest will be between 8 feet and 13 feet deep, which will allow water polo matches and competitive swim events similar to the existing facility, Modica said.

A separate warm-water pool is proposed, 60 feet by 30 feet at a depth of 3 feet to 5 feet to be located adjacent to, but separate from, the 50-meter pool, Modica added.

An outdoor pool would also be 50 meters by 25 yards at 8 feet deep throughout, plus an additional 80 feet of shallow water, Modica said.

Lucy Johnson, another diving advocate, said there's widespread interest in the city's moves - an interest that hasn't been appreciated by city officials.

"The level of interest has always been there," she said. "It's been getting the city's interest that's been somewhat of a problem."

DeLong, whose 3rd District includes the pool site in Belmont Shore, said he supports a push for a new facility.

"We will regain the outstanding reputation that the city has had over the years," he said.

The pool has been used for Olympic swim trials and training, as well as numerous other competitions through the years.

It was temporarily closed Jan. 10 after a draft structural and seismic evaluation indicated the Belmont Pool Natatorium was seismically unsafe in the event of a moderate earthquake. Monday, the closure became permanent.

Until a final plan is decided, city officials said they will provide a temporary solution. 

At Tuesday's meeting, four interim options will be presented. One of those options is the construction of an interim outdoor pool in the adjacent parking lot that could be ready in five to eight months - similar to the facility built during the 2004 Olympic swim trials in downtown Long Beach.

The temporary site, which also needs the state Coastal Commission approval, would cost $4.2 million, city officials said.

joe.segura@presstelegram.com, 562-714-2167, twitter.com/JoeSeguraPT