Corrosion prompts new repair work at Federal Way Community Center pool

Price tag for the repairs is upwards of $1.2 million.

The Federal Way city council has signed off on a $112,700 addition to repairs underway at the Community Center leisure pool, following the discovery of extensive corrosion damage beyond what was already known.

Work started last year to demolish the slide, stairs and play structure at the leisure pool, which had deteriorated from rust and corrosion. That was Phase 1; Phase 2, which started this fall and is ongoing, involves replacing those features, as well as demolishing and replacing the concrete footings for the slide, and re-plastering the entire pool.

The six-lane lap pool remains open; it’s been fully inspected and “is in great shape,” City Parks Director John Hutton told the Federal Way City Council on Dec. 6.

The leisure pool was originally scheduled to re-open Dec. 17, but that date will change due to a few discoveries made by the city’s contractors, CEM Aquatics, in October.

First, the original slide footings, thought to be eight-inches thick, were discovered to be 24-inches thick, increasing the cost of removal. And crews also discovered concrete and rebar behind the pool tiling to be “significantly deteriorated from rust / corrosion.”

Removing more tiles from the pool uncovered “a level of corrosion … beyond anything staff had anticipated,” according to the report from parks management, caused by water intruding from the pool and flowing over rebar.


After the discoveries in October, the city had a few options: The longest-term solution, taking the whole pool out and building a new one, would cost at least $12 million and take two to three years, Hutton said.

The city could also perform a ground-penetrating radar (GPR) scan of all the concrete in the pool to search for any further rebar corrosion. That could cost from $250,000 to $750,000.

Ultimately, the city picked a smaller, $112,700 addition to the current repair project that should extend the pool’s life at least ten years, Hutton said. That’s the project they took to the city council for approval on Dec. 6. (The cost for the repair work already underway is $1,149,705, so these change orders are on top of that amount.)

Since the pool is 15 years old already, that would extend its lifespan to only a few years shy of what it should have been in the beginning, Hutton pointed out.

The project would involve demolishing the visible corrosion, installing zinc anodes to slow corrosion, patching concrete, waterproofing all the repairs and then repairing tiles. The city will also fully waterproof the pool interior and overflow gutters to prevent further water intrusion, according to staff.

City council members raised the obvious question: With all the work the leisure pool needs, why not just tear the whole thing out and rebuild it now?

The answer, according to Hutton, is partly about good planning: The city is “very confident” the repairs will buy another decade of useful life for the pool, which is time the city can spend planning, designing and engineering the bigger replacement project.

And the answer is also part timing: Doing big repairs right now would mean taking the pool offline for many months, keeping swimmers from using a valuable public resource and cutting off a financial asset to the city. Getting the pool back online – which Hutton said should reasonably happen in less than 90 days once work commences – would resuscitate the community center’s biggest economic engine.

“The cost-benefit analysis is really clear,” Hutton said at the council meeting.

One advantage of fixing the pool now, for example, is that the city can perform GPR at the pool during one of its scheduled week-long closures in a year or two, Hutton said, meaning it wouldn’t impact visitor access at all.

Whether to perform a GPR, or just tear the pool out and build a new one, is a decision the city will now have time to chew on.

The city council unanimously approved the proposal, so now it’s down to how soon crews can get in to continue the work. The city is waiting for a project timeline from their contractor, Hutton said.

Of the $112,700 approved for the project, about $30,000 will go toward removing additional concrete, and a similar amount outward repairing rust and corrosion. Another $40,000 or so will go to repairing tiles, and about $12,000 will go toward waterproofing. The money will come from unallocated ARPA contingency funds.


Corrosion at the leisure pool has been a concern since it opened in March 2007, but it’s only in the last five years that the water damage warranted urgent repairs, according to the city.

Pools like it should have a roughly 30-year lifespan, Hutton said, but regrettably, that leisure pool needed serious repair work only 10 years in.

Concerns regarding rust and corrosion were raised as early as September 2007. But the rust damage “was very minimal at the time,” Hutton said.

Staff monitored the situation over time, and by 2017 raised concerns over “spalling” — i.e., concrete fracturing and beginning to break apart — on the columns and stairs of the slide. That period was the catalyst for the current project on the pool, Hutton said.

By Jan. 2018, an engineer finished temporary repairs, and those repairs were still holding well by 2019. But deterioration of the repairs became evident during the closure of the pool as the pandemic began, according to the city.

So in Dec. 2021, phase 1 of the replacement project began with demolishing the slide, staircase and column. In March this year, the city council authorized a contract with CEM Aquatics for the slide replacement and pool re-plastering.

The demolition began in September, at which time the the leisure pool and hot tub closed so crews could get in to work. That marked the start Phase 2, which is where the work is currently.