Jones pool making too small a splash



Kenneth Jones Pool is slowly but surely going down the drain.

The pool that King County wanted to close for budget reasons last year was taken over by the city of Federal Way, which is finding it less popular with recreational swimmers than expected.

The city, which wants to include a swimming pool in a proposed new community center, plans to eventually give the pool up to Federal Way Public Schools, which owns the property but will almost surely close the pool for good.

In the meantime, city officials wish the pool would attract more paying customers. A city-paid consultant last year pegged the cost of running the facility at $300,000 a year, not including repairs. Before taking it off the county’s hands, the city knew the pool needed a new boiler and other renovations.

As officials expected, Jones is costing substantially more to operate than it earns in the fees it charges for open public swims ($3 per person), lap swims ($3 for seniors, $4.50 for everyone else) and swimming lessons (10 sessions for $55 or $65, depending on the students’ age).

The fees were raised by the county last year to their current level and were retained by the city.

Whether it’s the fees, the economy in general, confusion about who operates the pool or some other factor, people aren’t using Jones as much as the city would like, said Craig Feldman, aquatics coordinator.

“We’re surprised,” he said, noting the public outcry last year when the City Council initially hesitated to commit the city Jones. Swimmers seeking recreation and exercise demanded that the pool be kept open.

Jones’ age may work against it. It opened in 1971 and lacks some of the amenities to help it compete with watersports meccas such as Wild Waves, the water park located a few miles away. And tentative plans for a pool at the city’s proposed community center include water slides.

Feldman said Jones, at 33 years old, “has a lot of life in it, but it’s not state of the art.”

That distinction goes to the county-owned, world-class Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatics Center. With the anticipated community center, Federal Way would have two modern public pools, hastening Jones’ obsolescence.

Jennifer Schroeder, the city’s parks and recreation director, said she’s focusing more on the community center plans than Jones.

The pool property is owned by the school district, which doesn’t want the pool but does want the building.

Rod Leland, director of public facilities, said the district doesn’t operate pools and won’t start in the foreseeable future. Money is the issue. Typically, pools operate at a deficit in districts that have them, he said.

School swim teams use the aquatics center. Special-education classes will start going there, too, after Jones closes.

“We’d keep the (Jones) building for other uses,” Leland said.

Editor Pat Jenkins: 925-5565,

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