Northshore Pool to be converted into a soaking, not swimming, pool

It was with great fanfare on a summer day in July 2010, when the City of Bothell and McMenamins announced the Purchase and Sale Agreement to convert the historic W. A. Anderson school building into a new boutique hotel and renovate the Northshore Pool, with the special provision to make it accessible for free to the citizens of Bothell for 15 years.

The Northshore community’s access to a public swimming pool was eliminated first with the closure of Woodinville’s Sorenson Pool in 2002, then both the Northshore Pool in Bothell and the Carol Ann Wald Pool in Kenmore’s St. Edward State Park closed in 2009.

The Bothell City Council approved the purchase and sale agreement, development agreement, and public benefits agreement with McMenamins for the Anderson building and associated property at its meeting on June 15, 2010.

Northshore PoolPhoto by Shannon Michael. In the revised plans for the Northshore Pool received by the City of Bothell Community Development and Public Works Administration on October 22, a crosscut view of the planned renovations show the new wading pool inserted into the older pool’s shell, the planned tropical theme including thatched roofs and palm trees, massage rooms, and the second story lounge bar overlooking the pool area.Prior to that 2010 announcement, in 2008 the cities of Bothell, Woodinville and Kenmore, working with ORB Architects, Inc. and Public Affairs, LLC, in conjunction with the Northshore Parks and Recreation Service Area (NPRSA), had a Northshore Aquatics Needs Analysis and Location Study prepared.

That study found that based on citizen interest and service demand, a multi-function regional aquatic center of approximately 55,000 square feet was warranted, with the most expressed interest and preference of location being a site in downtown Bothell near Pop Keeney Stadium within the City of Bothell Downtown Revitalization area.

NPRSA is a special taxing district, with boundaries approximately the same as the Northshore School District. It was used to help fund the construction of the Northshore Senior Center.

That same analysis found the existing Northshore Pool site was not adequate to convert into a new structure to accommodate updated uses for a regional multi-use aquatic center.

It also found consensus that downtown Bothell was the best location for a facility that would include a lap pool designed to meet the needs of competitive swim and dive teams (including the area’s high school teams), leisure pool, therapy pool and hot swirl pool. Projected uses included diving and swim competitions, water polo, synchronized swimming, swim lessons, scuba classes, and kayak training.

On September 9, 2008, the City of Bothell Parks, Recreation & Open Space Action Program adopted Action PR-A26, which stated, "Support development of an aquatics facility to replace the Northshore Pool. The aquatics facility should be developed jointly with other regional providers and/or neighboring jurisdictions and as a part of the NPRSA. If a regional aquatics facility is not developed by the NPRSA, a community pool in conjunction with a community center should be developed by the City." According to the program summary, "an action is a specific direction given to implement a policy."

The Action Program proposed that if a regional pool and community center were to proceed forward, a regional voted bond be utilized to fund this project.

A public vote was recommended for 2010 to fund the new aquatic facility, but King County election records for 2010 show the measure was never put on the ballot. That’s most likely because of the downturn in the economy and McMenamins expressed interest in the Northshore Pool and Anderson school property in 2009.

When brothers Mike and Brian McMenamin visited the Anderson Building site in July 2010 to announce the purchase of the historic building and discuss their plans for the site, they told the crowd they were aware the closed pool was named after local athletes Tracie Ruiz and Candy Costie, synchronized-swimmers who won the 1984 Olympics duet gold medal, according to a video of the event found on YouTube, "Bothell welcomes McMenamins."

In the video, Mike McMenamin stated they thought they’d be able to work with some of the high school teams, but joked that their quirkiness might mean the swimming lanes might not be in straight lines. 

McMenamins properties are known to have a uniqueness about them, with their Kennedy School property in Portland, Ore., being named the nation’s quirkiest hotel in the spring of 2010 on the travel website

Since 2010, the City of Bothell has consistently informed citizens that the McMenamin project will include renovation of the Northshore Pool for public use.

However, it has been McMenamins’ intention since 2010 to convert the old pool into a soaking pool with a depth of four feet and a saltwater blend set at 100 to 102 degrees, according to Renee Rank, director of marketing for McMenamins.

The Kennedy School property in Oregon also includes a soaking pool, which is hugely popular to local residents and guests alike, according to Rank.

"The pool is designed to be used more for relaxation use. It is not meant to be a lap pool," Rank said, adding the pool will be set in a very garden-like atmosphere.

The sale of the properties did not close between the City of Bothell and McMenamins until July 18, 2012.

At the City of Bothell’s Community Development and Public Works Administration, the latest revised plans received by the city on October 22 were available for inspection. The city must approve the plans before construction can begin.

According to the latest plans, the renovated Northshore Pool building will have a "wading" pool built inside of the existing pool shell, six massage rooms bordering the pool area will be added, a tropical theme will be incorporated throughout the interior with thatched roofs, bamboo framing and indoor landscaping that includes palm trees.

On the second floor, a small lounge bar and restaurant with adjacent kitchen will overlook the soaking pool.

As early as October 11, 2012, in a Pre-Application Narrative submitted to the City of Bothell’s Public Services, Ankrom Moisan, an architectural design firm based in Portland, Ore. and hired by McMenamins, plans for a new function for the pool were outlined, "This building will remain as a ‘pool’ public access building, but will become a ‘feature’ pool with décor and modifications to become a more ‘naturalistic’ type pool."

The Narrative went on to describe a new decoratively fenced, outdoor spa pool will also be built to the west of the current building.

A post by a member of the Facebook group, "You know you are from Bothell if…" on October 22 mentioning the wading pool plans for the pool generated several comments.

Many members commenting were surprised to learn of the proposed plans, while others expressed gratitude to McMenamins for entering the community to save the school and pool. 

"There was not sufficient revenue to continue subsidizing the operation of this old box-style pool, as well as pay for significant repairs that were needed at the time of its closure," wrote Bothell City Manager Bob Stowe in an email response for comment.

"The fact that they plan to operate the pool in a different configuration and depth has been known and discussed publicly for some time and is consistent with the Development Agreement that was executed between McMenamins and the City in 2010," Stowe also wrote. 

Despite McMenamins’ intended plans for the Northshore Pool, several of the City of Bothell’s official communications to residents have not outlined McMenamins’ specific plans in detail.

In the Winter 2010 edition of "Bothell Bylines" Bothell mayor Mark Lamb wrote, "We also celebrated the announcement that the McMenamin brothers of Oregon are purchasing the W.A. Anderson building, restoring it and re-opening the Northshore pool, which Bothell residents will have free use of for 15 years."

In the Fall 2011 edition of "Bothell Bridge," the City of Bothell’s City News & Recreation Guide, residents were told, "McMenamins, which operates brewpubs and hotels throughout Washington and Oregon, will transform the Anderson Building into 70-room hotel including a restaurant, pub, movie theater, live music entertainment venue, spa, community garden, community pool and community meeting space. After a delay due to environmental cleanup, work is expected to begin late next year and be completed by spring of 2014."

And, the Summer 2013 edition of "Bothell Bridge," again used the same general wording about free access to the pool and renovation of the existing pool building.

Meanwhile, the city’s Future of Bothell website currently makes no mention that the Northshore Pool will be converted into a soaking pool, and links to several news articles provided on the website make mention of the pool being reopened as a community pool, with one Seattle Times blog post indicating the pool could be reopened to high school swim teams.

In fact, only one published reference to McMenamins’ plans to convert the pool into a soaking pool was found in a single Bothell Reporter story published June 11, 2010, "McMenamins strikes deal to take over Bothell’s W. A. Anderson Building."

When McMenamin’s Rank was asked to provide press releases from 2010 announcing their plans for the property, Rank responded by email that the City of Bothell had been handling all news releases and that McMenamins had not issued any press releases to date on the project.

Asked if the Northshore School District was hopeful the Northshore Pool would be renovated to accommodate the district’s high school swim and dive teams, district spokesperson Leanna Albrecht wrote in an email, "The district did not have an expectation that when it sold the property to the City of Bothell that if the pool were to be refurbished, it would provide space for high school swim team practices."

The district currently does not have plans to construct a pool at the fourth high school being considered for construction in the northern part of the district. "Construction of a fourth high school is contingent upon passage of the February 2014 bond measure," Albrecht wrote.

For the past several years, the boys and girls swim and dive teams at Woodinville, Bothell, and Inglemoor high schools must travel to the Juanita Aquatic Center at Juanita High School in Kirkland for practices and home swim meets.

Two other regional high schools also use the pool for their swim programs.

William Leak, administrator of the Facebook page, "Support Northshore Aquatics" was disappointed to learn of the new configuration for the pool. "I have grave concerns for the future of public pools for all age and capability users, including high school swim teams in the Northshore Region," he wrote by email, adding that it’s his understanding plans for eventually building a new Juanita High School do not include a new pool.

Indeed, the Lake Washington School District is planning a ballot measure in February 2014 for a partially renovated/partially new Juanita High School that would close the Juanita Aquatic Center for use in 2017. On September 10, the City of Kirkland recommended adopting a resolution to explore options for replacing the aquatic center in a partnership with the LWSD, other districts, and public and private entities.

Bothell City Council Position 5 candidate Tris Samberg was concerned when she was serving on the Council in 2010 when the Purchase and Sale Agreement with McMenamins came up for a vote. She wanted more time for public review of the details of the plans before placing a vote, but when that didn’t happen, she was the lone councilmember to vote against the motion, despite being generally in favor of the idea.

"I took a lot of heat when I was on the Council for being anti-Bothell and anti-McMenamins for my no vote," she said in a phone interview last week, adding that she voted no because she felt the Council and the community wasn’t given enough time to review the agreement before accepting it. 

Samberg was a Bothell City Councilmember from 2008 to 2011 and was a representative on the NPRSA.

If elected again to the Council, Samberg says she would look into trying to reverse the pool’s plans, but admitted she couldn’t make any promises change would occur.

Samberg’s opponent in the City Council race, Steve Booth, was also asked to comment on the pool’s plans, but did not respond.

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