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New life for old site: Landmark pool closing down

The architect’s rendering of the new Veterans’ Memorial Pool complex, by Zerr Berg Architects

If you're nostalgic and want to enjoy the last few weeks of what has been an excellent amenity for the community for the last 57 years then take your family to the Veteran's Memorial Pool every opportunity you get.

Located in Herb Tintes Park at 131 6th Ave. E., the landmark pool operated by the West Fargo Park District with the longtime support of the West Fargo VFW, will be closing on Wednesday, July 24, paving the way for a rebuild of an entirely new recreational complex on the site.

The old pool has been in disarray and disrepair for quite some time, requiring ongoing band-aid fixes that are no longer an option.

Jamie Olson who has served as pool manager the last 17 years said the timing for a new facility is definitely right. "We have been trying to build new life into it but the pool is beat and I want to be able to go there and take pride again."

West Fargo Park District Executive Director Barb Erbstoesser agreed stating, "With the quality of its material and how it has aged over time, it has reached a point beyond repair."

The new recreational pool expected to be up and running in June of 2014 will drop in almost perfectly on the footprint of the old facility, featuring a 14,000 square feet deck area and a 4,325 square foot pool.

The site plan includes a zero-depth pool as well as a zero depth to four foot six inch progressive pool with lap lanes; a water playground area equipped with two water slides, 154 feet and 125 feet high; a kiddie slide, giant mushrooms and a bubbler.

There will also be men's and women's locker room and showers located outside on the deck; as well as concessions; and the diagonal parking will remain on the street.

Every piece of the concrete except for the warming house will be taken out, and as for the rest of the site, the playgrounds and tennis court will remain untouched. The warming house will be freshened up with a new roof in advance of this winter's skating season.

Explaining the lack of a deep end, Erbstoesser noted "That's the way pools have gone. Public recreational pools are going away from diving because of safety standards. This will be more of a specialty area but open for swimming. We have a lot of things to work out yet but we are hoping to be able to offer exercise classes and other special events." She said when all is said and done it will truly be a multigenerational pool appealing to recreational users of all ages levels, whether it's swimming or just sunbathing on the pool deck.

Bids will be opened for work on the project at the West Fargo Park Board meeting July 10. Erbstoesser is hoping they are going to come in on target.

Once bids are approved, crews will begin clearing the site the first week in August, Erbstoesser noted. "The neighbors will see construction equipment come in and we will be providing whatever measures we can to insure safety and avoid disrupting the neighborhood."

The goal will be to have the concrete work and footings done this fall so work can progress through the winter for the projected summer opening.

Erbstoesser emphasized that this project does not relate to other aquatic center talks presently in the works. "Proposals pertaining to a West Fargo Aquatic Center have no affect whatsoever on the plans for the Veterans Memorial Pool rebuild. This is a completely independent project with input provided by community members who said they wanted swimmable water in the neighborhood."

"So combining the citizens input with information provided by staff, the board carefully weighed all the options from a recreational and maintenance standpoint," Erbstoesser stated. "That included listening to the voiced opinions and taking a serious look at costs and the way people had used the facility the last 57 years before making the decision to put a pool back into the space."

Total cost of the work is estimated $2.2 million which will be bonded for out of the general fund meaning no additional cost for taxpayers."We would like it to be a turn-key facility when the public comes in to use it," Erbstoesser added. "We want it to be all done. It will be more expensive if we come back five years from now for add-ons."

The pool will employ approximately the same number of people and with the changes will be easier and much more efficient to maintain, according to Olson, who noted that the water usage savings alone will be huge.

Offsetting the upkeep will be a small admission charge yet to be worked out along with pool policies and rules. The fee to swim will be brand new to pool visitors since the West Fargo VFW has covered that expense in the past.

The VFW association goes back to 1978 and since that time the group has contributed $1.4 million to ensure free swim as well as help out with other related expenses.

Erbstoesser said it is unclear right now what the VFW connection will be with the new pool. "We are talking with them to identify what the future might hold for that continued support. Their contributions over the past 40 years plus have certainly been appreciated and we look forward to working with them in the future."

Olson said the generosity of the VFW has been appreciated by everyone, but mostly by the swimmers, whose numbers have remained steady or climbed.

So far this year, over 4000 kids have enjoyed the pool this summer, equating to about 800 a day.

Olson said he is eagerly counting down the days that will result in a new life for the Veterans Memorial Pool. "I've been operating the pool for 17 years so it's goiing to be bittersweet. I give credit to all the maintenance staff who breathed new life into it so we could make it this long, which was ten more years than it should have been."

With its vibrant blue, red, yellow and orange color combinations, Olson added that the new pool dynamic is really going to "pop out" on the site. "The colors make it real and come alive. I can picture myself there already."

With a 25-year pool history as a park district employee and before that as a youngster taking swimming lessons, Erbstoesser said she too "is proud of the pool's long run and the ability of staff to keep it useable. I challenge anybody to find a pool almost 60 years old and still open. We've been really fortunate over the years to have the high quality of staff that was always able to make that possible. Personally and professionally, the pool will always have a lot of memories for me, but now this is all about entering into a new chapter. It really is nice to see this enthusiasm from the public"

On that note, the Veterans Memorial Pool remains open seven days a week from 1 to 4:30 p.m. for open swim, 6 to 6:45 p. m. for family swim and 7 to 8:30 p.m. for open swim, all at no charge.

A grand "One Last Splash" water carnival event will take place the last day of operation on July 24. More details on that will be forthcoming.

For more information visit the West Fargo Park District website at