When People’s Community Center’s old pool shut down in 2008 due to structural problems, some city and park officials were contemplating turning the space into a basketball court. But Hilltop locals were adamant that they needed a pool.
Eight years later, on Sept. 24, the community will celebrate the opening of Tacoma’s newest swimming pool, right off Martin Luther King Jr. Way. For Hilltop residents like Fletcher Jenkins, that feels like a victory.
“Oh, that (will be) like crossing the finish line and receiving the gold,” he said of the opening.
Jenkins and other locals have been fighting for nearly a decade to keep a pool in Hilltop. With the community backing them, they lobbied Metro Parks, the City Council, and even the state Legislature, but for Jenkins, the whole movement was set into motion by local kids.
When the pool was shut down in 2008, there was a meeting with the city and the park districts where community leaders expressed the importance of having a swimming pool in the neighborhood.
“It was going kind of back and forth, and one of the young children at that time stood up and said, ‘We don’t need another basketball court. We need to know how to swim. When we fall in the water, we need to know how to get out.’ And that set a spark throughout the community and the people who were at the meeting. And it just took off like a wildfire. Kids ignited that,” said Jenkins.
“One of the young children … said, ‘We don’t need another basketball court. We need to know how to swim. When we fall in the water, we need to know how to get out.’ And that set a spark throughout the community.”
According to Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning by 88 percent among children ages 1 to 4. A study by the USA Swimming Foundation and the University of Memphis reports that 70 percent of African-Americans and 60 percent of Hispanic/Latino children cannot swim. African-American children drown at a rate nearly three times higher than their Caucasian peers, according to the CDC.
Hilltop’s new L-shaped pool cost more than $8 million. It has three lap lanes, Tacoma’s only indoor spraypad for toddlers, a current channel and vortex designed for both fun and therapy, two poolside basketball hoops, and two party rooms. It also meets all Americans with Disabilities Act standards.
As for Jenkins, he says he’ll take a dip, but he’s sticking to the shallow end for the time being.