By Bob Uphues
It's been almost 15 years since leaders at Riverside Swim Club went to its members and told them it was time to begin addressing the crumbling infrastructure of the now nearly 60-year old swimming pool.
Last fall, members overwhelmingly supported a full-scale renovation of the pool and its related facilities and as spring approached club officials were looking forward to a triumphant farewell lap in the old-school tank and set the course for construction come September.
Then a pandemic arrived.
"We want it to be sunny and warm and back to normal, but unfortunately as the weeks go on, we're less and less sure what it's going to look like this summer," said Chris Porter, the club's board president.
But, while it's still unclear whether or not there will be even a partial swim season, construction of the new pool, clubhouse and other amenities are still on for this fall, with more than 400 member families ponying up the first installment of their 2020 membership dues on May 1.
That payment guaranteed the renovation project would stay on track. Porter and the board's facilities committee continue to work with their construction management firm, Helios, which the club hired earlier this year; its architectural firm, Legat Architects; and the club's bank to nail down final cost estimates.
That number will determine the second installment payment from members, which will come due in July.
Originally pegged at about $5.35 million, construction estimates right now are closer to $5.8 million, said Porter.
"We think our members are pretty well-informed and have their eyes wide open," said Porter.
When complete, the new facility would feature an expanded eight-lane 25-meter pool, an expanded diving well with a slide feature, new concrete decks with permanent shade structures, a new filtration system, a larger zero-depth kiddie pool, a new clubhouse with an elevated snack shop and outdoor grilling and dining station, a multi-sport court, and an ADA-compliant deck wrapping around the clubhouse.
As a way to attract members during 2020 and keep construction on track, the club's leadership lowered its one-time initiation fee for new members to $500; half of what the club charged previously.
One difference, however, is that the old $1,000 bond was refundable at the time of resignation from the club, and several old members who were not ready to invest in a new pool, sought that refund.
This year's $500 initiation fee is also refundable, which makes it an even more enticing incentive for joining in 2020 – even if it turns out there's no swim season. Because if you join the club after the new pool is constructed, the cost structure will be very different, according Allison Evans, the board's vice president, who has been leading the membership drive.
"This is a pivotal year for the pool," Evans said. "Next year will look very different in terms of dues and buy-in."
Once the new pool is ready, said Evans, Riverside Swim Club is planning to charge a non-refundable initiation fee of $2,000, in addition to annual dues. For 2020, annual dues are $1,629 for families; $1,218 for individuals/couples and $1,058 for senior citizens.
For many members, the investment in 2020 is worth the risk of the pandemic limiting use of the pool either partially or completely this summer.
"I am in full support of the renovation, even with the social and economic issues which may threaten the pool opening this year," said John Mathews, a longtime member and former board member. "If we don't open this year, we come back to a brand new pool in 2021. … I think the board did a great job with the plans and arranging the financing, and even though it costs a bit more than the current dues, it's money well-spent to keep it going."