East Portland Aquatic Center officially opens

After you see why folks flocked to outer East Portland’s new ‘swimming hole’ to celebrate its grand opening, you may want to grab your swim trunks and head on over for a dip, slip, or splash, yourself …

After the “snip, snip, snip” of the ceremonial ribbon, it was “slide, swim, and splash” for hundreds of guests, at the East Portland Community Center Aquatic Center.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
A couple of months ago, we gave you a sneak-preview of the East Portland Community Center Aquatic Center, when we tagged along with Mayor Tom Potter during his December 19. (CLICK HERE to read that story and discover all of the features the center offers.)

It took contractors a few more weeks to complete the unfinished tasks and solve some unforeseen problems, but the new aquatic center officially opened – with a big splash – on March 14.

Portland City Commissioner – and the new “Parks Commissoner” – Nick Fish says his son, 5-year-old Chapin, takes to water like a … well …

Fish takes to water
Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish, the newly-named commissioner overseeing Portland Parks & Recreation, was grinning ear-to-ear, as he and his 5-year-old son Chapin toured the facility.

“This day is important,” Fish said before the official ceremonies began, “because it shows that we kept faith with people in outer East Portland when we promised them a new aquatic center many years ago. The folks here passed a [parks improvement] levy in 2002 to build this center.”

For many years, Fish added, many outer East Portlanders have said they’ve felt ignored. “As we open this pool – just as [the Portland City Council] adopted the East Portland Action Plan – these actions shows that we’re paying attention.”

Three generations of Parkrose residents, grandmother Bev Schafer, mom Mary Walker, and her kids, Ahnika Reavis and Elizabeth Walker, wait with anticipation to use the new pool.

Proving that the giant waterslide isn’t just for kids! Mario Lopez takes his first, fast ride. Afterward says, “This is really fun and exciting.”

Saltzman touts green building
As a crowd of more than 100 bathing suit attired adults and children gathered at the Aquatic Center’s main door (there are three pools in the center), former Parks Commissioner Dan Saltzman quipped, “It’s nice to see this throng of smiling faces, ready to ‘mow us down’ and go swimming!

Even with the parks levy, Saltzman commented, the project fell $4 Million short of being built. He commended former Mayor Tom Potter and outer East Portland parks advocates for moving the project forward.

“This is not only the best aquatic facility in Portland,” Saltzman continued, “but is probably the best aquatic facility in the nation, in terms of its sustainable features. This is a state-of-the-art building – the only aquatic facility that will achieve a LEED Platinum* rating, the highest rating a building can have for green building in this country.”

* LEED is the U.S. Green Building Green Council’s “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” certification.

Saltzman talked about many of the facility’s “green” systems, starting with the pool water filtration and sanitation system, which allows for lower levels of chlorine. He said heat from the center is captured and used to reheat pool water – and that they’d be installing solar cells on the roof that will generate as much as 50% of the building’s energy.

Watching over the splashing citizens at the new East Portland Aquatic Center is certified lifeguard Danielle McConnell.

Eric Ridenour, with SERA Architects, and his son Milo, are about to cut the cake at the grand opening ceremony of the East Portland Aquatic Center.

Scissors at the ready
As officials and kids got ready to snip the ceremonial ribbon, Portland Parks & Recreation director Zari Santner thanked all of those involved in the project, but singled out David Douglas schools’ District Superintendent Barbara Rommel, for providing some of the land on which the facility sits.

“The David Douglas school board recognized the benefit to the community,” Santner said, “and thanks also to the students of Floyd Light Middle School, immediately adjacent to the facility.”

With that, the ribbon was cut – and the fun began, as outer East Portlanders enjoyed an afternoon of splishing, splashing, sliding, and swimming.

Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish, the new Parks Commissioner, signs beach balls for the Shore family – Peter, Vida and kids Lola and Caleb.

Whatever the weather outside, the climate is always perfect for swimming and floating down the “Lazy River” feature in the new East Portland Aquatic Center.

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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