On a hot afternoon I share the lone lap swimming lane in the Alhambra pool with three other overweight people like myself. Like many individuals with weight problems, they may be managing health issues like diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure and heart disease.
I know from experience that for overweight people swimming can be a lifeline and one of the best reasons to live in Alhambra is its two great outdoor pools. The problem is that we cannot use the facilities as much as we would like. Due to budget cuts, the city has been forced to dramatically reduce several programs including swimming. It is the first summer that I can remember where there is not a time dedicated to lap swimming or water aerobics. Alhambra offers swimming lessons and some recreational swimming, but it has been limited to an hour and a half a day on most days. Furthermore, there was no pool open for the better part of May and June — two of the warmer months of the year and prime vacation time when children can use the pools.
We were told that both pools were initially closed for maintenance. Very frustrated by not having a pool available to us, especially considering that many of us purchased annual swim passes, a number of regulars attended a City Council meeting a couple of weeks ago where we made our case to make lap swimming available. Keenly aware of the dire economic circumstances faced by public service providers in general, we were not expecting the city to do anything beyond its means. We just wanted to explain how we thought the city could offer lap swimming without spending more money and perhaps even make money doing so. One of the points we made was that there is room available in the pool while lessons and even recreational swimming are taking place. Lap swimmers could make use of these unused lanes and generate additional revenues since no additional staff would be needed.
The city must have agreed because shortly thereafter they made one lane available for lap swimming during lessons and recreational swimming at Granada Pool. Speaking for myself, I greatly appreciate this. So now here is where we sound selfish! The city made one lane available. But it is not easy to make one lane work with four or more lap swimmers that all swim at different speeds. Sometimes there are additional lanes not being used. Wouldn’t it make sense to let lap swimmers use those lanes as well? Certainly having more lanes would make more lap swimmers inclined to come and generate more revenue. Furthermore, wouldn’t it make sense to open the pool when demand is the greatest to increase revenue?
I also exchanged e-mails with Alhambra Director of Community Services Cynthia Jarvis. She told me that lap swimming would be limited to one lane because there was only one available. Others were being used for lessons or recreational swim and they did not want excess splashing to bother those learning how to swim.
Last year the city changed lap swimming hours from 4:30 to 6 pm which they offered on and off till May. A couple of years ago Alhambra offered lap swimming from 6 to 8pm at least 4 days a week in addition to some morning and weekend hours. This schedule was much more amicable to people who work from 9-5 pm than the hours this year. I noticed a huge drop off in the patronage particularly among workers who could not make the new schedule. I remember when there were almost always three or more to a lane in the summer months and two to a lane during other seasons and lap swimming was clearly more profitable. What prompted such a change? In addition, doesn’t it make sense that a city should offer services to those who pay for them? The working people are the ones who buy houses, use the businesses and pay taxes in this community. Shouldn’t they be able to use what they pay for?
None of us are advocating that we should cut swim lessons or water aerobics. Both programs can share the pool with each other and with lap swimmers and be highly profitable, probably much more so than lap swimming alone. Nor are we advocating that other city recreational programs be cut even though swimming is probably better exercise. We are simply saying that funds and resources can be managed more effectively so that the situation is mutually beneficial for the city and the people who use the pools. For example, the city could change the annual pass fee. Most recently the annual swim pass was $125. This is extremely reasonable if one looks around at similar swim passes in surrounding cities. Perhaps the city could raise the cost to $300 which would still make it competitive and comparable to alternatives such as health club memberships. Another alternative might be to eliminate the annual pass and sell a $30 monthly pass. Furthermore, the city could charge more for swimming in the colder months to compensate for the cost of heating and lower seasonal patronage.
I love having a beautiful outdoor pool available to me in my community and in my park. In fact, it is one of the single greatest reasons I purchased a home in Alhambra. We are truly blessed to live in a city with such great amenities and it is a shame that we cannot use them to their fullest potential.