SOUTH GLENDALE — City officials and residents on Thursday heralded the groundbreaking of the long-awaited $5.3-million public pool at Pacific Park, which is slated to open by summer.
The ceremony came roughly six years after Mayor Ara Najarian began publicly lobbying for a replacement for the city's only public municipal pool, which was demolished in 2003 to make way for the joint city project with Glendale Unified at Edison Elementary School.
"Can you guess I'm excited about this pool?" Najarian — donning swim goggles and a towel around his neck — said at Thursday's ceremony. "This has been a long time coming."
The City Council last month approved a contract with Glendale-based George Hopkins Construction Co. to build the six-lane L-shaped pool and 4,965-square-foot equipment and administrative building.
The pool will also qualify for high-level green building standards.
The final plan is the result of a number of design iterations as city officials struggled to piece together funding for the project, which was initially proposed as a $10.4-million eight-lane, competition-ready model.
Thursday's ceremony came just days after Najarian publicly criticized the city's inability to find funding to support a grander pool design.
"What was supposed to be a decent swimming pool is a wading pool," he said Tuesday at a Redevelopment Agency meeting. "And that's what we call our municipal pool. And I am ashamed of the pool at this point, to be quite honest."
Najarian was more positive about the project Thursday, acknowledging that dreams can't always become reality.
"That's the way life is," he said.
Even with the pared-down design, Councilman Dave Weaver consistently voted against the pool, which he said would cost too much at a time of severe budget constraints.
While most of the money for the pool comes from state and federal grants that can't be used to pay for public services and employees, Weaver has cited the pool's annual estimated operational costs of $300,000 per year as a major drain on city finances.
Hopkins Construction — which also built the new Adult Recreation Center — has committed to an accelerated construction timeline in order to have the pool open by June.
"We're going to have a pool for you by summer," Parks Recreation & Community Services Commissioner Dottie Sharkey said to a group of children, who cheered in response.