116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
The Iowa City Parks & Recreation Department recommends closing the Robert A. Lee (RAL) pool, but their recommendation is inconsistent with goals, data, and community feedback included in reports posted online this summer.
Iowa City Values Aquatics
The July 13 report shows that Iowa Citians place a “high value on aquatics.” In addition, RAL’s “downtown/central location” is “preferred” and “more accessible.” Aquatics account for 56 percent of the department’s programs, more than all the other programs combined.
In the Aug. 10 report, survey respondents ranked indoor aquatics as one of the most important places to invest in future facilities, listing water fitness classes/water aerobics, lap swimming, senior aquatic programs, and swim lessons as high priorities. It identifies “aquatics programs” as a “growth opportunity,” noting that “75 percent of ‘high priority’ pool programs involves forms of aquatic exercise.”
One reason cited for closing RAL pool is low attendance. However, attendance charts undercount pool users by listing the number of lap swimmers seen through a security camera that shows partial views of the pool. Aquacisers, water walkers, swim-lessons, family swims, Red Cross training sessions, special event participants and deep-water pool users are excluded from daily counts. The six-lane pool often accommodates as many as 23 users at a time. Clearly, RAL pool is actively used by a wide variety of community members, many of whom simply aren’t counted.
Survey respondents do not want to shift all aquatics to the Mercer Aquatics Center (68 percent unfavorable), a location far from Iowa City’s center. Such a move would also contradict the Master Plan’s “overarching goal” “to prioritize resources to provide aquatic and recreation facilities that are equitable, accessible … and responsive to the Iowa City community.” RAL’s centrally located, warm-water pool already provides what citizens want.
Repairs Cost Less than a New Pool
The July 13 report says the life of the RAL pool could be extended for many years by repairing the pool, for $471,000, and pool enclosure, for $108,000 (together $579,000). These estimates are far lower than the $4.5 million to $5 million figure cited to repair the RAL pool. Pool renovations make far more sense than adding a smaller, less-versatile, $8 million to $9 million warm-water pool at Mercer.
Reports do not recommend closure of RAL’s pool; instead, these data and community-informed responses are powerful indicators of what Iowa City needs and RAL provides: a downtown pool in a central location, accessible to all, with diverse programming and opportunities for aquatics growth.
In 1968, Iowa City determined it needed two indoor public pools. Since then, Iowa City’s population has grown by 60 percent and continues to increase. The recommendation to close RAL pool contradicts data and citizen’s priorities.
Please join our efforts to save this valuable and well-utilized community resource. Send an email to email@example.com and ask city councilors to approve repairs for and prevent closure of the RAL pool.
Mark Cannon, Carin Crain, Jill Fishbaugh, Justin Fishbaugh, Amy Kretkowski, Susan Mellecker, Mitzi Read and Anne Stapleton live in Iowa City.