By Mike De Felice
Kitsap News Group
PORT ORCHARD — Work on the $10.36 million upgrade of the South Kitsap Community Pool at the high school, underway since early March, has not run into any surprises so far, according to South Kitsap School District officials. The pool — used by students and the community — remains set to reopen on schedule in the fall of 2023.
“Work to now has primarily been demolition work,” said Joe Riley, SKSD director of facilities and operations.
The community pool, housed in the southeast part of campus near the baseball field, was viewed as a cutting-edge facility when it opened in 1980, officials said. The Olympic-sized pool featured a unique adjustable floor that could be raised and lowered to change the depth. There also was a bulkhead wall in the middle of the pool that could be raised from the floor to the surface to divide the pool in half.
“When it was built, it was the only one of its kind in our area. It was the gem of the West,” Riley said.
Over four decades, the movable floor and bulkhead began to wear out, requiring the need to modernize the facility, according to officials.
“The raising and lowering [of the bulkhead] for 40 years caused wear and tear. The bulkhead started to have issues. Now the company [that built it] doesn’t make parts anymore,” the facility and operations director said. Five years ago, the bulkhead was secured in the “up” position.
The multi-year capital project will result in a new conventional pool that will be the same size as the original one. It will be 3 feet deep in the shallow end and taper down to a depth of 13 feet in the diving area. A floating bulkhead will be installed to allow the pool to more easily be divided, allowing for various water activities to simultaneously take place, Riley said.
Unlike the old bulkhead, the new floating one will not involve any mechanics and will lead to a significant reduction in maintenance costs, officials said. To date, crews have worked to remove the bulkhead and movable floor. Parts of the roof have also been removed. Locker rooms, showers and lighting fixtures have also been taken out.
“Everything is down to brick and mortar,” Riley said. “Walls and floors are basically what we have left.”
Several new portions of the facility will start to be installed at the end of summer.
Future work includes redoing the pool’s surface, installing non-slip flooring, updating lighting, and building revamped locker rooms, including family dressing rooms, Riley said. Crews will also install a new roof, make seismic upgrades, and replace systems to manage heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) and pool chemicals. The parking lot will also be refinished to make it more ADA-friendly.
Once the pool is reopened, it will return for use by students, members of the public, and several groups.
“When you talk about it being a community pool, it really is a community pool. There are a lot of outside groups that utilize the space,” Riley said.
School use includes swim lessons, lifeguard classes, physical education classes, and after-school boys and girls swim teams. Members of the community can sign up for swim lessons, swim laps, and participate in classes that include water aerobics. The pool can also be rented for birthday parties.
Various groups also use the facility, including students from around the region who build remote-operated vehicles (ROVs) and run their underwater submarine-like units in the pool, assisted by engineers from the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Riley noted.
“We also partner with South Kitsap Fire and Rescue and other fire departments. They use the pool for diving and training and to get their water certification.”
Financing of the pool modernization largely came from the passage of the capital project levy approved by voters in 2018, said Amy Miller, the school district’s public information officer. Supplemental construction funding totaling $3,417,000 also came from the state. The state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction also contributed up to $2 million in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding to upgrade the roof and pool ventilation system, Miller said.
Christiansen Inc. was awarded the construction contract for the project with a bid of $7,750,500, according to school board materials.