Just as soon as the doors opened at Bethel’s new pool, they closed. Bethel city officials say there’s safety issue.
Acting City Manager Pete Williams, says a State Fire Marshall inspected the building before the grand opening on Saturday and found a problem with the sprinkler system.
“They gave the blessing for the opening as long as the fire truck was hooked up to the building for the opening,” Williams said.
“Right now we have some test equipment that is not in town that’s en route and hopefully late tonight or early tomorrow morning they’ll do some more testing and hopefully solve the problem.”
Williams says the pool will remain closed until the problem with the sprinklers is fixed.
New Bethel Pool Opens With High Hopes
The pool was welcomed by the community on Saturday with ceremonial cannonballs and trips down the slide.
Hundreds watched as Beverly Hoffman made the grand opening plunge down the new slide. With that splash, the new pool was officially open, and the early reviews are positive.
“It’s really fun,” said a group of Bethel youth.
The pool quickly reached its full capacity and dozens waited in line for their chance to swim. The 25-million dollar six-lane pool is part of a complex that has a hot tub, weight room, and an open exercise room. Bethel’s largest windmill provides about half of the electricity.
The pool has been a dream for three decades. Looking across the pool full of splashing kids, Hoffman, who’s been the persistent voice for years was emotional.
“It’s overwhelming, it’s just what we wanted for this community, a place where families and kids can learn how to swim and be comfortable and dive in water. It’s amazing,” said Hoffman.
The city presented Hoffman with a lifetime pool pass for her many years of work. Ella Kinegak cut the ribbon Saturday and reflected on the long process.
“I used to go into these hotels and they have swimming pools, I used to wonder, if they can do it, I bet if we try in Bethel, it wouldn’t be too hard to try it out,” said Kinegak.
It took three decades, and no one claims it was easy. A group of mothers, the Y-K Delta Lifesavers over the years have baked and sold 20-thousand pounds of cookies to raise funds. Bethel citizens twice voted for increased sales tax for the pool.
The future of the facility was never certain, as it faced opposition in some city councils and an uphill battle for grant money. Y-K Delta State Senator Lyman Hoffman and Representative Bob Herron worked to secure a 23-million dollar state appropriation 2012. Hoffman says he made the case for the region’s safety.
“People live off the river, hunting, fishing, and we’ve had some of the highest drowning rates in the state and in the nation. I don’t think it’s a nicety, I think it’s a necessity to the people out here. It’s such a good feeling to finally be inside, this is my first day here, it’s totally amazing,” said Hoffman.
At the opening, the hundreds who were eager to swim listened to remarks from a long list of local and state leaders who described the community effort. The local Kuimarvik advisory board has advocated for the pool, while the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation’s diabetes program and Rasmussen Foundation were major donors to outfit the center with equipment. The city hired an Atlanta based company, USA Pools, to manage it.
Bethel Mayor Rick Robb says the community and region have a great opportunity before them.
“I think this facility will improve the quality of life here, and our people can live better, our kids can grow up with healthy recreation and physical activities. We’ve got a first class pool, a first class gym, it’s really about improving our quality of life,” said Robb.