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Pool and Play 

by DOUG NADVORNICK & r & & r &

& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & S & lt;/span & Supporters of the city of Spokane's proposed $43 million parks bond issue are selling fun. Think five new outdoor swimming pools, they urge. Think 10 new spray pads in city parks -- replacing old wading pools -- complete with pop-up jets and other fun features. Think an expanded sports complex near Albi Stadium, with five new softball diamonds, a dozen new soccer fields and a new BMX bike track. Think new youth baseball fields in city parks. Think 14 acres of wooded areas for walkers and mountain bikers.

"This is a legacy issue," says Eric Sawyer, the executive director of the Spokane Regional Sports Commission. "Even if you never use Albi or the pools, the community's quality of life is enhanced by these things."

Since the city council voted in August to put the issue on the ballot, Sawyer and other supporters have been out in the community, evangelizing. One night they may be talking about the need to replace five pools, including the oldest, Comstock, built in 1937.

"Our pools are shot," says Jeff Halstead, a former Park Board member who is co-chair of the Citizens for Pool and Play committee. "Two years ago we had to close Shadle's outdoor pool because the cracks were too big to fix. These pools were built to last 20 years. This is like in the 1950s, replacing old black-and-white TVs with color sets. Not plasma screens, but better than what we have."

The measure would allow the city to replace Comstock, Cannon, Hillyard, Liberty and Witter pools and build a sixth pool somewhere in the northwest quadrant, perhaps on the southeast corner of the Albi Stadium parking lot. Witter Pool would be 50 meters in length, long enough to accommodate major competitive events.

Another night supporters may be pitching the softball fields at Albi.

"Think of the economic impact," says Sawyer. "We think we could bring in $30 million through hosting tournaments there and at the fields at Franklin Park. And that would allow us to free up fields elsewhere that we could turn into baseball fields for kids."

If those arguments don't persuade you, supporters will play the public safety and obesity cards.

"We know that juvenile crime peaks at 4 pm," says Sawyer. "If we can provide places for kids to play during those after-school hours, maybe we can make an impact on our public safety problem." In addition, "if we can provide sports opportunities for kids, maybe we can make a dent in the juvenile obesity problem. We have to invest in healthy alternatives."

& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & P & lt;/span & arks officials say the bond issue won't raise taxes, or at least not significantly. The taxes levied to repay the bonds -- about $30 a year for the owner of a $150,000 home -- would replace a two-year property tax increase that expires at the end of the year.

The bond issue needs a 60 percent supermajority to pass and Sawyer is optimistic the measure will get that. "The only worry I have is with the people who are uneducated about it," he says. "We've found that once we've told people about it, they start nodding their heads in agreement."

Even though there's no organized opposition to the measure, there are some who are disappointed that it doesn't include plans for an indoor pool.

"The outdoor pools are only useable for about 10 weeks," said Ann Murphy at an August city council hearing. "We (swim teams) need an indoor facility. We have to go to private venues" when the weather is too cold for outdoor swimming.

A earlier, much larger bond issue had included plans for an indoor aquatic center, but the Park Board scaled back the measure amid concerns that voters wouldn't approve it. City Councilman Rob Crow, who helped develop the bond issue, says the city vows to work to develop an indoor facility, perhaps in partnership with Spokane County.

Bond issue supporters will hold two community meetings, one Thursday, Oct. 4, at the Northeast Community Center and one Tuesday, Oct. 9 at the Southside Senior Center. Both meetings will start at 7 pm.
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