Tukwila Pool is ready for next mission for the community

A gathering to celebrate, recognize and appreciate the Tukwila Pool Metropolitan Park District community for the effort to transition the pool to independent operations is 10 a.m.-11:30 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 17, at the pool, 4414 S. 144th St., Tukwila. There will be coffee and muffins.

In the foreground Mercedes Meadows of Seattle plays with daughter Wren

Not much has changed IN the Tukwila Pool since Jan. 1 – the lights are on and the water’s warm. You can still swim laps and walk in (if not on) the water.

But behind the scenes, the change is dynamic – new phones, new computers, for example – something most pool patrons won’t even notice.

“The community needs to know,” said Kate Kruller. “It’s just like it was before.”

Kruller is president of the Tukwila Pool Metropolitan Park District commission as well as president of the Tukwila City Council.

The pool facility next to Foster High School was closed for about two weeks, reopening Jan. 5, while the City of Tukwila removed its equipment and the new operator, the park district, set up shop and trained staff.

That was the first official day at the pool for the new aquatics manager, Dave Perkins. For several weeks he worked behind the scenes to help in the transition of pool to the pool district as of the first of the year.

“I am very happy with the way they left the facility for us to take over,” said Perkins. The city left behind a supply of chemicals, deep cleaned the pool and put in new filters.

Perkins has 25 years of experience as an aquatics specialist; he was recreation coordinator for the City of Renton for 13 years.

Kruller describes Perkins as a good listener and approachable.

“I am hoping it’s a big community group hug when they meet him,” she said.

Perhaps the biggest obvious change for now, at least, is in the faces. The two key managers at the pool for many years, Amy Kindell and Malcolm Neely, now have different jobs with the City of Tukwila.

Kindell is doing marketing and stewardship for the Tukwila Parks and Recreation Department and Neely is with parks maintenance.

“They are loved,” said Kruller of Kindell and Neely. Neely worked at the pool since 2002, when the city took it over from King County.

The pool was built in the early 1970s, using money from the Forward Thrust program. Tukwila’s voters created the park district in August 2011.

The park district also hired Steven Burke as a consultant to assist in the transition until a new executive director is hired.

The current fees to use the pool won’t change immediately under the park district. Hours and programming won’t change, but that could change after Perkins completes an in-depth assessment of the pool’s slow and busy times and commissioners talk about community needs with the community.

Swim lessons will resume on Feb. 1; registration began on Monday, Jan. 19, either by phone or in-person. They weren’t held in January so that staff could work on the transition.

For sure, the Tukwila community will have a big say in what happens next at the Tukwila Pool. The pool district commissioners will talk about their vision for the pool’s future at a retreat later this month.

Perkins expects to do a lot of listening to the community of pool users and engaging Tukwila’s diverse community in the conversation.

He and Kruller talk about tailoring the programming to the needs of the community.

“The most important thing is to get programs in here that the community wants,” Perkins said. “We can run a program and no one likes it and no one shows up. That’s not what I want to do.”

The Tukwila Pool is the home swimming pool for the Kennedy Catholic High School boys and girls swim teams and the Foster High girls swim team.

There’s a “strong commitment” to resume an elective PE swim class at the pool for the district’s secondary students next year, according to Sara Niegowski, a Tukwila School District spokeswoman. Supt. Nancy Coogan and Perkins have talked about the classes.

“They key – and the reason why swimming was not available this year – is making sure that we have a staff member who is available and qualified to oversee the program and be onsite with the students when they go to the pool,” Niegowski said.

Sustain Tukwila Pool, which has worked for years to save the pool from closing and then sustain it, would like to see every child in Tukwila learn water safety and how to swim, says its co-chair, Christine Neuffer.

There’s also a need for more community events at the pool, she said.

“Overall, we are optimistic about the potential possibilities with this change,” she said, of pool district operations.

The future of the pool is still to be worked out, but Perkins has some guiding principles. One is teaching everyone to swim.

“Living here in the Northwest, it’s a pretty important skill to have,” he said.

But for many in Tukwila’s diverse communities, swimming is not part of their culture, he said, which is one reason he would like to introduce different cultures to the pool and swimming on their own special nights.

It’s a vision that Perkins shares with Kruller, and, she says, with the rest of the parks district commission. She would add pool users of a “more mature age” to a list of those she would like to see learn to swim.

On STP’s wish list is a greater variety and hours for fitness programming for adults and seniors, Neuffer said.

The options are wide open for the pool, starting with making  no changes at all, Kruller said. Perkins is bringing “fresh ideas” to the table and the Tukwila Pool Advisory Committee, a citizens group, will participate more in the discussion, she said.

Everyone has good ideas, she said.

“We have to figure out how to corral them. Figure out how to prioritize them. Figure out whether we can afford them,” she said. And then talk over the ideas with the community to “implement what makes sense,” she said.

Kruller praised the work of Sustain Tukwila Pool, other volunteers and fellow commissioners for their efforts to “benchmark” how the Tukwila Pool stacked up against other pools in the region. The information became a source of new ideas.

“Sustain Tukwila Pool sees the pool as a vital community asset,” said Neuffer

The advantage of the pool being operated by the pool district, she said, “is that there can now be direct accountability and reporting to the board.

“This new model has the potential to be more sustainable, responsive, nimble and innovative in areas such as fiscal accountability, customer experience and programming,” she said.

POOL DETAILS

Swim lessons

Swim lessons resume on Feb. 1. Registration for the lessons started on Monday, Jan. 19, either by phone, 206-267-2350, or in person at the pool, 4414 S. 144th St., next to Foster High School. Aquatics manager Dave Perkins or a staff member would like to speak with a child’s parents to ensure they are placed in the right class for their skill level.

New staff

Anyone interested in lifeguarding or in instructing at the pool should contact Perkins at the pool or by phone. He’d especially like to speak with bilingual instructors.

Commission meetings

The Tukwila Pool Metropolitan Park District commission will meet at 6:30 p.m., the fourth Thursday of the month, at the King County Water District 125, office, 3460 S. 148th St., Suite 110, Tukwila. The commission had met at Tukwila City Hall.

(Note: The commission will meet in a special meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 29, at the water district office.)

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