SOLEDAD — The Soledad pool will open Feb. 3 to be available for swim lessons, water aerobics and lap swims again.
“We are the only indoor swimming pool south of Salinas,” said Frances Bengtson, executive director of the Soledad-Mission Recreation District. “It gets windy here and being inside is a break from the wind. It makes it accessible almost year round.”
The pool has been closed since Nov. 4 due to the cold weather making pool operations more costly during the winter months. In the meantime, staff has refreshed their training in time for the opening day.
“We bring back our returning staff and we review everything, including lifeguard procedures,” Bengtson said.
The recreation district has two full-time employees and another 11 staff members, with almost all of them trained in lifeguard duty and swim instruction. Even the people who work at the front desk go through this training to be able to answer questions.
“The swimming pool is such an asset to the community, we’ve been getting calls since we closed,” Bengtson said. “The seniors in water aerobics are excited to come back, and we’re excited to see them again.”
In the past, the pool has hosted 17,000 annual visits of both recessing and one-time guests. It’s more typical for people to come back for many sessions due to swim lessons.
“We appreciate the support the community gives us by coming over and over,” Bengtson said. “A lot of the staff live in Soledad and grew up in Soledad.”
Programs at the pool include water aerobics, swim lessons, swim teams, open swims, water walking, late-night swims and movie nights on Fridays. New ideas are being tried out, including water Zumba.
“It’s great exercise,” said Bengtson of the value of swimming. She noted people with back injuries or problems with their joints benefit from the water. “Once you’re in the water, you’re weightless. The weightlessness of the water alleviates the pressure on joints.”
For aquatic workouts, such as aerobatics, the resistance of the water is used to increase the effect of cardio exercise.
“For kids with special needs, the water is a tactile experience,” said Bengtson, who added that schools send special needs classes to the pool for swimming. “It’s a full-body feeling experience for them.”
In addition to learning and fitness, the knowledge of how to swim can be of use to people.
“There are a lot of benefits as well as being a lifetime and life-saving activity,” Bengtson said. “You never want to be in a situation where you can’t swim to shore.”
Adult swim lessons will begin in May. Bengtson said the adult lessons have been popular in the past, with some Fridays having attendance of 25 people. The swim capabilities of participants vary, from people who fear water all the way up to people who are almost ready to do laps.
This week through Friday, the pool is hosting evaluations from 4 to 5 p.m. so parents can sign up their children in the right level of classes. Lessons begin on opening day.
The Soledad High School swim team started using the pool for their competition season on Jan. 27. Their season will continue through May.
This year, the youth swim team will officially be a satellite program of the Seaside Dolphins, a year-round swim team. In the summertime, the pool partners with the health care district as part of their childhood obesity program to provide family classes.
“We have some major goals this year of making it more affordable,” Bengtson said. “All of our prices are basically at cost.”
She explained the recreation district is seeking community partners, grants and donations to not only help maintain the pool, but make future renovations possible. Current estimates for renovations are approximately at $250,000. The wading pool was renovated last year, and the roof was renovated in 2008.
“We work very hard to keep the water clean and the facility clean, but the facility is aging,” Bengtson said. “We’ve got this big goal of refinishing the bottom of the pool.”
For more information about the Soledad pool, contact 831-678-3745 or visit soledadrec.org.