Verdugo pool opening pushed back

Verdugo park
The empty swimming pool at Verdugo Park. The pool has been closed since 2009, and was a former training site for the 1984 Olympics.
(Tim Berger / Staff Photographer)

The edges of the signs posted on the doors and windows have started to curl, but the message is just as clear as it was nearly four years ago: The Verdugo Park pool is closed.

Since 2008, the swimming pool has sat empty. Once a 1984 Olympics training site, dirty water and leaves now accumulate in the pool’s deep end.

City officials in 2010 said the pool could be operational by fall 2011. Then in July of that year, Councilman Dave Golonski indicated the pool could be open by summer 2012.

But now even that goal has been pushed back, meaning residents expecting a poolside reprieve from the summer heat will have to look elsewhere.


“I’ve been waffling back and forth about whether to write another letter to the editor, but wanted to wait until the bids were in and we’re actually moving forward before I made another projection,” Golonski said. “I’m hoping that we will have a solid time frame when we award the bid. All the bids are in, they were evaluated and we are ready to award the bid. Once we get to that point, we can say with some degree of certainty [what the timeline will be.]”

Golonski said he also wanted to better understand why the project was delayed.

“My biggest disappointment is we have a pool, a big asset, and the community hasn’t been able to use it for four years,” Golonski said. “It’s hot in the summer and having a closed pool is not a good thing.”

“The pool was closed for a number of structural and mechanical issues in 2008, after 60 years,” said Sean Corrigan, assistant director of city engineering. “My job is to finish the design with the architect and go to bid.”


Once construction begins, it could be nine months to a year before the pool is open, said Pat Thomas, recreational services manager for the city.

Design changes were made in early 2011 to the project — budgeted at $7.3 million — and a construction contract could be awarded next month, Corrigan said.

Design changes were made for better safety and security, including moving walls and shade structures so lifeguards have a better view of the pool from different angles and within the locker room building, Corrigan said.

“It’s more cost effective to do the changes before we go to bid, rather than during construction,” he said.

Another reason for the delay had to do with the Los Angeles County Health Department’s inspection, Corrigan said, which he said “took longer than anticipated.”

The project plans, delivered June 30, 2011, were approved by the county on Oct. 20.

The city met with several stakeholder groups, including the park board and senior groups, as the design developed.

“The design process did take longer than we had hoped — I wished it had gone quicker,” Corrigan said.


During that time, city aquatics programs were held at the high schools and the pool at McCambridge Park.

In July 2011, the redesign was complete and plans were being checked at the county level, Corrigan said.

Construction bids were then solicited and came back in February, but a number of firms had questions about the project, Corrigan said.

Now the project isn’t expected to be completed until spring 2013.

In the meantime, residents continue to wait and make other plans.

Twelve-year resident Karla Alvarez sat on a bench at Verdugo Park recently as her 2-year-old daughter played nearby. She lives a few blocks west of the park and would like her daughter to learn how to swim.

“I’d have to find another place for her to take lessons,” Alvarez said.

Jean Tibayan said her older son used the pool, which is within walking distance of the family’s home, but “now we have to drive to McCambridge Park.”


“It affects me in that I have to drive all summer,” she said. “Normally we would be out more, walking, and make a day of it. Now we drive over, swim, drive home.”

The relative lack of information about when the wait will be over hasn’t helped, she added.

“I hear rumors, and every year we’re hoping.”


The renovated Verdugo Park Pool will include a new 50-meter pool, a second pool with a water slide, new locker rooms or bathhouse and new deck equipment, including lifeguard stands. Other improvements will include:

Parking spaces will be increased from 40 to 67.

Modern lighting to save energy, photo voltaic panels to reduce energy costs, and high-efficiency water fixtures will be used.

An upgraded irrigation system on the south portion of Verdugo Park will use reclaimed water.

The upstairs community center and gym is a separate building from the lower bathhouse or locker room building.

The community center will include meeting rooms, a small office and restrooms that will remain operational while the locker rooms are being renovated.