Grab your swimsuit, towel and plenty of sunscreen and be prepared for some fun in the sun this summer at the new Como Regional Park Pool.
A free grand-opening celebration is set for Saturday, June 9. Festivities will begin at 11:30 a.m. with a program hosted by Mayor Chris Coleman and activities from noon until 8 p.m. that will include an open swim, door prizes, scavenger hunts, lawn games, a jump castle and a climbing wall.
The new $9.2 million pool features a 400-foot lazy river with both single- and double-rider tubes; an aquatic zip line; a diving well with a one-meter diving board, two platforms and an aquatic rock climbing wall; a children’s splash pool; a six-lane lap pool with two basketball hoops; locker rooms; and a concession stand. The final cost of the project includes site and roadwork, as well as the pool and its amenities. The project was funded by the City of St. Paul’s Capital Improvement Budget Committee, the Metropolitan Council and Minnesota’s Legacy and Heritage funds.
The park has been without a pool since fall 2008, when the 46-year-old facility was closed due to mechanical and electrical failures. A community design process took place in 2008 and 2009, where regional and local stakeholders had the opportunity to weigh in on the design for the new pool.
“We’ve certainly felt the impact of having Como Pool offline for four years,” said Michael Hahm, St. Paul Parks and Recreation director, “but we wanted to do things right and didn’t want to rush the new design for this premium regional amenity.”
Energy efficiency and environmental concerns were deemed important aspects of the new design. The facility has 12 solar panels that will heat water for the sinks and showers in the locker rooms and concession stand. The pool is surrounded by landscaping, including rain gardens to reduce runoff into the parking lots. Along with St. Paul’s two other aquatic facilities, the pool uses sphagnum moss to treat its water, which greatly reduces the need for chemicals. St. Paul is the first city in the nation to adopt sphagnum moss treatment in its municipal pools and with its partner, Creative Water Solutions, Inc., won the Governor’s Award for Pollution Prevention in 2011.
The pool schedule includes time for lap swim, open swim, water aerobics and swim lessons. Open swim will be available from noon to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from noon to 7 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, and from noon to 8 p.m. with some restrictions on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Details of the schedules for lap swim, water aerobics and swim lessons can be found in the St. Paul Parks and Recreation 2012 Summer Activities Brochure available around town and online at www.stpaul.gov on the Parks and Recreation page.
Admission ranges from $4.50 for youth less than 48 inches tall to $6.50 for adults under age 62. Families of up to five members can pay one fee of $16, with each additional member costing $3. There is a deck fee of $2 for those who don’t use the pool facilities. Group rates are also available.
Three Friday Family Fun and Fitness Days are scheduled for June 15, July 20 and Aug. 17. On those days, admission to St. Paul’s three aquatic facilities—Como Pool, Highland Park Aquatic Center and Great River Water Park —will be only $2.
If weather allows, the new pool will open preseason Memorial Day weekend, May 26–28, and on June 2–3 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Residents of Districts 10 and 6 may have an opportunity to check out the new pool during one of several “soft” openings in May that will allow pool staff to test the facility and operations systems.
Some vandalism occurred during construction, but since completion there have been no further incidents. The pool is protected by an 8-foot security fence, as required by state code, and during swim season an overnight attendant will be on site. Twelve security cameras record activity around the facility and anti-graffiti coatings were applied to building surfaces.
The pool entrance and parking lots are now on the south side of the facility off Como Avenue. The 215 parking stalls are expected to accommodate both pool and McMurray Field users. Como is currently a through street, but future plans have it dead-ended at the Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom. Plans also call for the pool to become a stop on the route of a future circulating shuttle through the park.
“I hope the grand-opening celebration will be a fun and eventful day for the whole neighborhood,” said District 10 community organizer Jessica Bronk.
Follow Como Pool on Facebook for specials throughout the summer.
Sharon Shinomiya is a freelance writer who lives in the Como Park neighborhood.