You Ask: Can Albany's New Indoor Pool Replace Closed Berkeley Warm Pool?

With the recent shuttering of the Berkeley warm pool, home to therapeutic swim programs, some are asking if Albany’s new indoor pool can pick up the slack. Click the "Keep me posted" button below for an alert when we write about the pool.

When the Berkeley High warm pool closed permanently last month, several Patch readers asked if Albany's could fill the gap. 

Berkeley's pool, kept at a cozy temperature of about 92 degrees, was home to a variety of therapeutic programs. 

Warm water exercise can be helpful for people with disabilities, certain medical conditions or injuries. Some seniors and children also prefer warmer temps.

Berkeley's warm pool, operated by the city, was the largest in the near-area. The Berkeley YMCA runs a smaller warm pool, and there are 92-degree pools in San Jose, Palo Alto, Fremont, Newark, Livermore and Dublin

The language of Measure E, the bond to fund , specifically mentions therapeutic use.

Among  rumors are flying about what Albany's new aquatic center will offer, including the suitability of the indoor pool for theraputics. 

We asked Pool Director Amanda Garcia for clarification. Coincidentally, Garcia had just finished preparing a report on the indoor pool temperature, attached to this story as a PDF. 

In short: Garcia is planning to heat the indoor pool to a temperature of 83 to 85 degrees F, which isn’t as warm as the Berkeley pool, but is acceptable for therapeutic use, she said. 

In her report, Garcia explains that one of the reasons for choosing this temperaure is the added operating cost of heating higher. The range will also be suitable for many needs, she said.

By comparison, the larger outdoor pool will be kept at about 78 to 80 degrees, as desired by swim teams and lap swimmers, said Garcia.

She said she consulted a variety of experts for advice on both pool temperatures, including the physical therapy services that regularly rented Albany's old pool for classes—a use that will continue when the new center opens.

The school district’s goal, Garcia said, is for the indoor pool to house a variety of community programs, from water aerobics to physical therapy classes, and swim lessons to party rentals.

The district will charge fees for these programs. “The pool that’s going to generate most of our revenue is the indoor pool.”

The large pool, by comparison, is designated for school swim teams and water polo, lap swim, possibly a master’s swimming program, as well as community recreation, Garcia said. Community, versus school, uses will also be fee-based. 

Programs at both pools will evolve with needs and demands, she said.

Sensitive to the need for the aquatic center to generate operating revenue quickly, Garcia said her aim is to keep both pools busy. “I’m going to try my best to have programs going on all day long.”  

This will require the cost of full staffing, she said, but robust programming will generate the most income. 

What do you think of the planned temperatures of Albany's new swimming pools? Tell us in the comments.

Click the "Keep me posted" button below for an alert when we write about the pool.

If there's something in this article you think , or if something else is amiss, call editor Emilie Raguso at 510-459-8325 or email her at albany@patch.com.

Emilie Raguso January 18, 2012 at 02:29 AM
This reminds me of something that predates me, which I've been curious to know more about, though it's tangential to the article above. How is it that St. Mary's has a tower on top, but Albany High doesn't? I'm sure there's a lot of institutional knowledge about this around town...
Gary Marquard January 18, 2012 at 02:32 AM
Yes, Kate, yes. Eighty-five degrees would be considered, let's say, very far from ideally warm for teaching by USSSA pros. Of around 45-50 whose temperature I found from their websites, only one (maybe two) said they used 85 or 86. None less. Here's a quote from one. At... http://www.happyswimmers.com/swim-tips.html "This article will focus on what makes for effective  swim lessons... ...Keep the water temperature warm.  86 degrees minimum, 90-94 ideal, says the United States  Swim School Association, an organization of over 250  swim schools nationwide. Because of the liquid  medium, a pool feels about 20 degrees cooler than air  temperature to a child. A 90 degree pool is like 70  degree air. The focus should be on learning well, and  shivering and blue lips make for less effective retention. I guess if Albany wants to opt for the lowest temperature the pros think suitable for teaching, or a degree or two less, maybe they can. But what about the therapy also promised. Even the outdated source Amanda Garcia cites in her Pool Temperature Update says the range for therapy is 91-95 ("can be as low as 87"). The phrase "race to the bottom" suggests itself here. Does Albany want to avail itself of every possible rationalization to keep the indoor pool temperature as low as possible -- largely because they are afraid to meet the challenge of realizing the revenue potential inherent in higher temperature water.
Brian Parsley January 18, 2012 at 02:59 AM
Ira are you claiming that the City of Albany has a legal requirement to pay for the pool? Can you cite any cases where this has been the case?
Brian Parsley January 18, 2012 at 03:04 AM
"He suggested at a board meeting that there might have been violations of the open meetings law." Where there any violations of the Brown Act? Did you or member Glasser contact the FPPC (California Fair Political Practices Commission) to report said violations? You saw he he was treated by other board members but did you ever talk to member Glasser as how he felt he was treated by fellow board members?
Brian Parsley January 18, 2012 at 03:23 AM
I noticed most of the United States Swim School Association swim schools in the Bay Area are in private, not public schools. I have to wonder what the rates for these exclusive clubs rate with that of the Albany Pool. If it's anything like Ms. Dash's $1295 for 8 lessons I'll take the usual 85 degrees.
Copper Hat January 18, 2012 at 03:30 AM
There's always a cheaper alternative: I would guess that the Bay water ranges from 50-70 degrees :-).
Ira Sharenow January 18, 2012 at 05:39 AM
The Berkeley YMCA is around the corner from Berkeley High School. They already have pools close to the 92 degree range. Why not work with them to make their warm pool deeper or otherwise meet the needs of those who want a warm water pool? Perhaps some of those doctors who recommend warm pools can donate to the YMCA or help raise money so that their pool can be refit. A monthly pass at the YMCA, which includes a lot more than just access to a couple of swimming pools, is cheaper than a monthly pass to the Albany pools. Has anyone approached the Berkeley YMCA? If so, what was the feedback?
Ira Sharenow January 18, 2012 at 05:39 AM
The Berkeley YMCA is around the corner from Berkeley High School. They already have pools close to the 92 degree range. Why not work with them to make their warm pool deeper or otherwise meet the needs of those who want a warm water pool? Perhaps some of those doctors who recommend warm pools can donate to the YMCA or help raise money so that their pool can be refit. A monthly pass at the YMCA, which includes a lot more than just access to a couple of swimming pools, is cheaper than a monthly pass to the Albany pools. Has anyone approached the Berkeley YMCA? If so, what was the feedback?
Michael Barnes January 18, 2012 at 07:22 AM
Emilie, Copper Hat, the installation at St. Mary's (just inside the southern boundary of Albany) predates the cell ordinance. See my note on the current cell conversation for more.
Lori January 18, 2012 at 07:40 AM
I just came from the Berkeley Y. Gracie's pool is about 87, and too cold for me. The 3 foot deep pool is about 90 degrees and in both pools the air is very cold. Yes, the city approached the Y about 5 years ago and there were many meetings. The warm pool people told them what they would need to make it a gap until a new warm pool was built. They gave us free passes for a month to try it out. For about 10 percent of the warm pool population this might work. For myself and the rest it does not. They will not make their pools warmer or deeper. That was the final decision.
Melon Dash January 19, 2012 at 02:55 AM
Enjoyed the comment about using the $1295 course fee for pool heat. Got the word from La Petite Baleen Swim School, the one that has 3 branches west of the Bay: 90 degrees brings more people to lessons and to recreational swim. Students as well as instructors get too cold in 80 degree pools. Still awaiting word from other two schools. I am impressed by the quality of the discussion here and the honest effort being put forth to understand and to find the best solution.
Melon Dash January 19, 2012 at 03:15 AM
You can find the fees charged by the private swim schools by going to their websites, linked above. To keep the public pools afloat, there must be swimming lessons fees. Taxes pay to build the pools. Users pay to keep them afloat. That's one way to think of it, though I can't say for certain if that's exactly the case. When thinking of swimming in a new way, forget the $5 lesson. Those days are either gone or they should be. You MUST have well trained instructors. Let's say there was a $154K shortfall in the budget that we cannot solve (which I believe we can). Would anyone be averse to asking the racetrack to chip it in? I haven't heard about the track in a while, so maybe it's a moot point. The idea of making the two pools community pools, not just Albany pools is important. An outdoor 50 meter pool such as AUSD's new one is not just a pool: it's an amenity. There's no other such pool until you get to Walnut Creek and that one is threatened. There's one at in San Pablo at the community college, but it's in ill repair. The Albany pools, if programmed well, could be full by serving the communites from Oakland to the Carquinez Bridge and east to Orinda. Correction re: Walnut Creek: Moraga has a 50 m pool and beautiful outdoor complex. There is justification for calling upon the local govt's of nearby cities to chip in to Albany's warm pool (both pools, since they're public?). There would be opposition, but it is a sensible and far-reaching idea, IMHO.
Ira Sharenow January 19, 2012 at 03:53 AM
El Cerrito charges $7.50 per lesson and they have a much more spacious and inviting environment plus they have parking. http://www.el-cerrito.org/index.aspx?NID=156 I believe the Berkeley YMCA charges $5.00 per lesson. http://www.baymca.org/register-online/online-registration/direct/swim-lessons-ad
Don S. January 19, 2012 at 07:11 AM
Ms. Dash- There is no 50 meter outdoor pool. The new outdoor pool under construction is 25 yards x 25 yards. So says Emily R. in a Patch article dated July 22, 2010. I can understand why you assumed the new outdoor pool is 50 m. Mr. Sharenow repeatedly calls it "huge." In fact, the new outdoor pool could not be much smaller and still be used for competition at the high school level. For those who want to see something interesting, google map the San Ramon Aquatic Center at 9900 Broadmoor Drive, San Ramon, CA. You will see a pool complex with a pool that is 50 m x 25 yds. There is a second, smaller lap pool as well. The smaller lap pool is the approx size of the new Alb. outdoor pool. Just for fun, compare the size of the 50 m pool to the adjacent Cal High School football field. Why does Mr. Sharenow continue to call the new outdoor pool "huge" and "fantastic?" I don't know. While the new pool likely will be terrific and fantastic, it is certainly not huge. Don Schumacher
Melon Dash January 19, 2012 at 02:50 PM
Oh! Thanks. That's half the size I thought you had outdoors. All the more reason for a warm pool then: you'll have less space and time for teaching more advanced classes and swim team training in the outdoor pool and more demand on teaching space in the indoor pool. That means you have to make it appeal, or you won't get takers. I mean appeal to all those who otherwise would not come. Great that you have 25 yds by 25 yds outdoors rather than only 6 lanes. I trust there are deep ends in both pools.
Melon Dash January 20, 2012 at 12:07 AM
The report from Johnny Johnson, Blue Buoy Swim School in SoCal: "Warm water pools are essential for succesful learn to swim programs especially for children under the age of five. It is also a huge benefit when working with frightened adults, elderly students or those with special needs. We ... now teach thousands of children annually at our school in Tustin where we have two pools both kept between 92 and 94 degrees depending on the outside temp. There is no question that swim lessons can make a facility a viable business. Most municipal facilities operate at a loss without the revenue stream from a lesson program, preferably one that runs year round. A year round program usually necessitates the need for an indoor pool for lessons in most locales. Competitive teams, recreational swimming, water exercise classes typically do not generate the type of income to cover the cost of running a facility without subsidies. Private swim schools with warm water can generate gross revenues in the millions of dollars annually." RE: $7.50 swimming lessons, those will not do, either. We know some people have learned to swim in $7.50 lessons (but how many lessons?). I was one of them: $1 back then. But 1) they do not produce swimmers who know how to prevent panic. 2) They do not teach people to be confident in deep water, though many learn it anyway. Needed is teaching that guarantees that students learn both. Hire specially trained teachers who succeed with literally Everyone.
Ira Sharenow January 20, 2012 at 01:40 AM
Melon, you articulate an interesting position. Have you been able to sit down with some of the primary decision makers such as the pool director and the superintendent? If so, what did they have to say? I know that some Albany residents met with the pool director to discuss bicycle parking and they seem to feel that they were well-received and made some progress. I would be interested in hearing about your interactions with the people who are most involved in the decision process. If you are not meeting with them, what is your strategy for achieving the results that you seek? http://www.ausdk12.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=92446&type=d&termREC_ID=&pREC_ID=staff
Brian Parsley January 20, 2012 at 02:43 AM
That might be hard to do from Sarasota, Florida.
Ira Sharenow January 20, 2012 at 03:55 AM
It is possible to have a strategy, even in Florida. I am really asking a similar question to that asked by another reader a few days ago. A few people have identified a serious issue that deserves a response from those who determine public policy, but their whole effort seems to be to try and convince a handful of people who read Albany Patch while there is little talk of how to approach those who will make the decisions.
Gary Marquard January 20, 2012 at 08:26 AM
Two of us (Judi Berzon and myself) who are local residents who share Melon's general point of view, and would like to see a warm pool securely established in our area, were in fact present at the Measure E Bond Oversight Committee meeting tonight-- because we'd been led to believe that was a good place to make our views public. We spoke in the public comment segment, and distributed printouts of a statement from Melon Dash, and one from an an aquatic therapist and swim teacher trained in Israel in one of the world's leading centers for such learning (who now lives here) -- plus some of the evidence from private swim schools websites that I cited above. Though Pool Director Garcia previously had emailed another in our group that she would put pool temperature on the agenda of today's meeting, she told me yesterday that she had not, but that the topic would be discussed at the meeting; then at the meeting, one committee member, presumably the chair, denied that the purview of the committee covered operational aspects such as temperature at all. AUSD Superintendent Marla Stephenson recorded contact information from Judi Berzon and myself, and said she would call us. So, Ira Sharenow's advice to attend the AUSD Board Meeting appears to have been better than what we acted upon. More later.
Ira Sharenow January 20, 2012 at 04:21 PM
If you look at Measure E, you will see that the expectation was for a replacement pool plus a small therapy pool. Instead the board substituted a large competition pool for the therapy pool. At this point, I do not know what can be done. The new pool director may be unfamiliar with all of the policies relating to how the board makes decisions. The board will have to reverse its policy. The board will not reverse its policy unless Marla and the pool director agree with your position. It will be very difficult to get them to change their minds. My impression is that Marla was or is a board member of the Albany YMCA and the Albany Y is related to the Berkeley Y. It seems to me that the Albany school district will not act alone and make its indoor pool a warm pool. I think there needs to be a regional approach. You might also need to find some people or organizations that will financially contribute to your efforts. I do not know how to organize such an effort. Perhaps someone like Nancy Skinner could at least guide you with respect to a strategy, http://www.smartvoter.org/2008/02/05/ca/alm/meas/E/ BOND PROJECT LIST Replace existing swimming pool with new swimming pool for student, adult school, athletic competition, and Albany community use Construct small therapy/instructional pool
Melon Dash January 23, 2012 at 10:58 PM
I have not spoken to anyone at AUSD and I don't have contact info for any of them. I wonder if any of them has read this thread? I would be happy to call them and teleconference with them. Does anyone have that info? The truth is the truth re: what keeps a pool afloat... and the path to it is simple, just not well-known. Anyone can (and should) ask them to prove that the pools, as proposed, will pay for themselves or lose money. Ask them to show you on paper. There is only one answer: they will lose money. I don't mean to cast aspersions. It's just that public pools don't make money unless there are good swimming lessons, and lots of them. I think I've said it all, already. Amanda Garcia may be a traditionally trained aquatics person in which case she would not know what warm-water swim school owners and I know. This is no fault of hers, but if she is to be practically heroic in her role, she would want to become informed. She could really make a positive difference to the community. Amanda, if you're reading this and you'd like to understand why Albany must have a warm pool to keep its new pools viable, please feel free to email me at info@conquerfear.com or call me at 941-921-6420. If you have to pay for the call, call 800-723-SWIM (7946). Still waiting to hear from the 3rd warm pool swim school owner.
Ira Sharenow January 24, 2012 at 01:14 AM
Melon, I hope that you realize that the initial idea was to have a small warm pool/therapy pool go with the indoor replacement pool and instead the warm pool was nixed in favor of a 10 lane outdoor pool and was done in a very questionable way. Did you read the things that David Glasser wrote? Did you watch the February 2010 video? I think you need to be working with Albany people who can meet with the school officials. It would then take a considerable effort to get the school board to reverse its position. The school district is not going to change its decisions simply because someone from Florida is posting a few notes on a web site. During the entire process which lasted a few years, I believe that zero or close to zero advocates for a therapy pool testified at board meetings or at pool committee meetings and certainly never gave an organized presentation. Therapy pool advocates skipped over 20 meetings (board and committee combined) and never organized, so it will take a remarkable effort to get a reversal in Albany. Hopefully, more people will become involved in school board issues and perhaps run for the school board.
Melon Dash January 31, 2012 at 05:55 PM
Thank you, Ira. Yes, I've learned about that initial idea through this thread. I haven't yet had time to revisit this page since last week, let alone read the excellent resources David Glasser generously provided. I would like to. Thanks for the synopsis ("very questionable way.") The Feb. 2010 video: not sure. Is it part of David's material he provided? I tried to connect with Superintendent Marla. I've received no acceptance of my invitation on LinkedIn. True about a person in Florida posting to the website.... I will make another attempt to reach Marla. I heard from the third warm pool swim school owner: Yes, more people come to a warm pool to learn, to swim. To do good swimming lessons you do have to have warm water. You might be able to use 88-89 degrees which also cuts down on humidity and wear and tear on equipment. At 87 degrees, kids were turning blue (ages 2-3, 4). 6-7 years old were okay in 87. At 89 degrees, they were all fine. The air temp in the room makes a difference. Swimming lessons produce the most money. Water Parks make money with "cold" water. In a warm pool, you need a big turnover of air to keep humidity down and keep air healthy. When a school district proposes a pool, they have to shop well; go to the "Consumer Reports" of choosing pools. The pool obviously makes a difference. As a racer, I understand the arguments of those who convinced the City to build a 25x25 pool. As a teacher and aquatics pro, I know this: 2 pools: warm and cool.
Lori February 02, 2012 at 02:42 AM
I read about the opening of the Albany Pool. I also finally found the reasoning behind the water temp, and I disagree. BUT, that is beside the point. When people vote for a bond, they are not expected to look up what defines a therapy/instructional pool-- and in the pro argument the word warm is used. Many thought they were voting for a pool with the same temp. as Berkeley's warm pool-- which is logical. They voted, and got taxed. It was mentioned only a few people testified at meetings. I didn't know that once a bond passed one could change what the wording of the bond meant. At the time of the the meetings about the warm pool temperature, many Albany residents felt sure that they had a "warm pool" backup . Those that were using the Berkeley warm pool were working hard to see that pool bond succeeded, although for many reasons it was doomed for failure. Now, those who need the Berkeley warm pool are "pie in the sky". Pretty soon no one is going to vote for a ballot measure, it they know it can be changed. Berkeley has had two bond measures that passed-- one about the warm pool which was never cashed. A lot of money and hard work goes into getting voters to vote for a bond. There was another bond that left out important wording, and Berkeley was sued.
Lori February 02, 2012 at 03:01 AM
I also want to point out that Albany is a fairly wealthy community. From the census: The estimated Black/African American population is 675, which is 4.1 percent of the total population in town (The U.S. average is 12.30%). And it is well known that African American Children have a much higher rate of drowning according to the NICHD. So maybe Albany doesn't care about the the best swimming lessons, or the disabled community? I want to thank every one for the comments--it's been a great process. I only hope we can do what is right and fair and raise that water temperature! Thanks.
Ross Stapleton-Gray February 02, 2012 at 03:19 AM
Um, Lori, that post seems like a hodge-podge of non sequiturs. Did you intend it to be read as, "Albany is mainly rich people who wouldn't mind if its comparatively few minority members drowned?"
Lori February 02, 2012 at 03:45 AM
Ouch! Thanks for pointing that out. No, of course I didn't mean to imply that and I am very sorry my post read that way. That would be Berkeley who doesn't care! Sorry, I couldn't resist -- I think I'm getting too tired to post as my last post shows. Again thanks for alerting me.
Tatter Salad March 22, 2012 at 08:12 AM
That ship has sailed. The pool is designed to be self suffecient, with income from 3rd party users to conduct therapy classes. The published primary goal: to provide for the Albany High, was cast aside, as the lap pool is about 8 feet too short; they made a 25 foot pool rather than the absolute minimum 25 meter pool.
Emilie Raguso September 24, 2012 at 02:45 PM
Albany Patch is preparing a list of questions from readers for school board candidates. We've scheduled, in conjunction with St. Alban's, candidate forums in October. (BOE: Oct. 10; CC: Oct. 17) Details here: http://patch.com/A-ybgT Please comment back ASAP to let us know your questions for school board candidates, or email me at albany@patch.com.


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