A Deep Dive on Outdoor Pools This Summer

March 18, 2021

The following is a guest post from Marty Oltmanns, CA’s Director of Aquatics, about the upcoming outdoor pool season:

Marty Oltmanns at the Columbia Swim Center

For those of you who haven’t met me, allow me to introduce myself. 

I’m Marty Oltmanns, and I always wear shorts. Seriously. Ask anyone at Columbia Association (CA). There could be snow on the ground and there will be no fabric past my knees. After spending most of my childhood in the Midwest, it doesn’t get cold enough to justify the level of constraint full length pants subject a person to. Just my opinion.

I first started working for CA when I was 15 years old, making my way from the Columbia Swim Center snack bar up to the director of aquatics. That said, these pools have been part of my life for many years now.

But enough about me. Let’s talk about the outdoor pools.

 

Looking back on last summer

Not to bring up sore subjects, but last year was really hard. 

When COVID-19 first hit, we had to lay off almost all of the aquatics staff. The few of us who remained were in a constant state of pivoting from one scenario to the next, trying to keep as many facilities open as possible while still keeping our community and team members safe. Between implementing new reservation systems to recertifying lifeguards, everything seemed like a hectic rush. To look back and see that we were able to manage it all is an amazing feat.

I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent under the close watch of my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles figurines (yes, there are multiple in my office) sorting through budget lines and lifeguard applications to make sure as many neighborhood pools as possible will open this summer. At the same time, my masked coworkers and influx of hand sanitizer serve as a constant reminder that this comic book enthusiast still faces his most fearsome villain: the pandemic.

 

What’s opening this summer

The pools opening this summer include:

  • Clemens Crossing (CCP) 
  • Dickinson (DIP)
  • Dorsey Hall (DHP) 
  • Hawthorn (HAP)
  • Hobbit’s Glen (HGP) 
  • Hopewell Mini WaterPark (HWP)
  • Huntington (HUP) 
  • Kendall Ridge (KRP) 
  • Longfellow (LFP)
  • Phelps Luck (PLP) 
  • River Hill (RHP) 
  • Running Brook (RBP)
  • Steven’s Forest (SFP)  
  • Swansfield Mini Water Park (SWP)
  • Thunder Hill (THP)

Click here to download a PDF of the amenities at each outdoor pool opening this summer.

Here’s a map of the neighborhood pools opening this year:

Click here to download a PDF of a map of all of the 15 outdoor pool locations operating this summer.

We have also marked all of the locations opening this summer on a Google Map so you can get directions to the pool closest to you. Click here to access that Google Map.

Indoor pools at Columbia Swim Center, Columbia Athletic Club, Supreme Sports Club and Columbia Gym will also be open throughout the summer.

 

What we considered

I know the value of our neighborhood pools and want to see all of them open. But with the economic impact of the pandemic and ongoing health and safety guidelines to adhere to, that’s just not possible.

That’s why the Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 budget includes funding to run 15 of our 23 outdoor pools this summer. You can read more about that decision here, but let’s dive into (pun intended) the factors we looked at when narrowing things down and making this tough call.

CNSL: the top priority

As a department, we were directed to focus our attention on the Columbia Neighborhood Swim League (CNSL). It’s been such a beloved program over the last 50 years at the CA pools, and while it will look very different, CNSL was an absolute must looking ahead to this summer. That became our starting point.

There are 14 teams requiring at least 13 pools. We went through and determined the facilities that would best serve those teams. When we laid out the CNSL schedule with 13 pools, we discovered the teams in River Hill were monopolizing most of the available time at its designated pool. That’s when we added Hobbits Glen to the list, which allowed us to bring back senior swim, an additional set of morning Aqua Fit classes and other programming for that area.

The final 15

After we ensured CNSL would have the space it needed, we looked at factors like programming, number of lanes, daily attendance, location by village and ADA accessibility. Considering that, we added Hawthorn to the list for a grand total of 15 outdoor pools. Those pools, by the way, account for more than 80% of regular daily admission check in’s throughout the summer.

As the aquatics director, I want all of the pools open. Each pool has its own unique feel. The guards love each individual pool, members love each individual pool, and so closing any of them down is hard. But you have to do what’s best for the community at this time, and what’s going to serve the most community members during this transition.

 

No permanent decisions

It’s important to remember that no pools are closed permanently at this time. The organization and the Board of Directors will look at the budget in the years to come and look for opportunities to reopen more of our neighborhood pools. This budget cycle only affects the upcoming summer.

Additionally, the CA Board directed us to evaluate opportunities to open more pools for the 2021 season if funds and lifeguards become available and safety guidelines allow for it. You can read that resolution here.

 

Much more to come

We know there are a lot more questions to answer about the upcoming pool season, so leading up to Memorial Day weekend, we’ll be posting more in-depth information about what to expect at your outdoor pool. Also sign up for the CA Swim newsletter and follow CA Swim on Facebook and Twitter. Those will be the best ways to get the latest information on everything pools related. 

Until then, you know where to find me. I’ll be the one in the shorts.

 

 

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