Get ready because I’m going to rave. A lot. I can’t even tell you what a blast my family and I had last week visiting South Seattle’s new pool. Not only is it gorgeous and SO much fun – it also doesn’t cost a trillion dollars. Why? Because it’s Rainier Beach’s new city community center and pool.
The center was leveled in 2011 and replaced with a 48,500-square-foot $25 million rebuild which opened its doors to the public this September. I’m talking indoor water bliss here. It features not one, but two pools: an 85-degree lap pool and a 93-degree leisure pool outfitted with a shallow wading/spray area, a lazy river/whirlpool, a hot tub (yes, a hot tub), and an epic corkscrew water slide. The pools are adjacent, separated by a glass divider but easily accessible to each other so visitors can move back and forth as they please.
When we arrived my 4-year-old ran up to the building and peered intensely in the window. He asked over and over, “Can we go in yet??” There are five large family changing rooms each complete with sink, toilet and shower. Once dressed we easily stored our stuff in 25-cent lockers. In the pools area, floor-to-ceiling stacked windows drench the rooms in natural light (no small feat in Seattle). The building is also eco-friendly, using mostly solar panels for pool warming, natural ventilation, a rainwater harvesting system for 90 percent of toilet water and a geothermal energy system.
Types of swims available
Now this is important. There are four types of Open Swims at this pool which can get a little confusing. Here's the line-up from mellowest/youngest to busiest/oldest:
- Spray & Play: Just the spray/wading area of the Leisure Pool. For very young to young children and their parents/caregivers.
- Pool Playland: The whole leisure pool except the slide. Children must be accompanied by parents/caregivers. Teens/older kids discouraged.
- Recreation Swim: The whole leisure pool including the slide. All ages.
- Public Swim: Both pools and all features are open including the diving board and two lanes of the lap pool. Visitors can move back and forth between pools. All ages.
We got there early enough for Spray & Play and stayed after for Public Swim. My little guy loved both. Spray & Play was practically empty so he got the run of the place. Features in this younger part of the pool include floor jets, a mushroom sprayer and bucket dumper. Public Swim following got pretty busy but it didn’t dampen our fun in the slightest. As my husband said, “It’s crowded – but it’s such a big pool.” My son put on one of the center’s many life jackets to explore the deeper parts of the leisure pool, but ultimately ended up in the shallow end doing belly-flops for 15 minutes. We had to drag him out of there when it was time to go.
Sitting at snack after we chatted tiredly. Best part for the kiddo? “When I went underwater,” and then, “When I went in circles” (i.e. Lazy River). Best part for my husband who works a ton and can’t always go to the pool with us? Seeing his child’s growing love of the water and intense desire to learn swimming. Best part for me? The 5 (maybe 10) minutes I got to sit in the hot tub with jets on my back/neck.
But best part of all? The next morning when my son slept in until 9:30 a.m. Now that is true indoor water bliss.
- Careful of parking. The center’s lot actually sits north and opens to Rainier Ave S. Convenient if you’re coming from the north but not obvious if you’re coming from any other direction. We attempted to park and enter from the south. Not only did we end up street parking a full city block away but the south doors were locked and we had to walk around the whole building. Think north (not south) if you drive.
- Get there early and/or on time. There is a cap on the number of bodies that can be in the pools per health codes. Open Swims do sell out and are likely to sell out even more as the pool grows in popularity. “Fun Family Friday” Public Swim is the busiest Open Swim.
- The Lazy River current is strong and the whirlpool at its center even stronger. Keep an eye on your kids in general. The pool rule for children under 6 years (or 4 feet tall) is one adult per two children always within arm’s reach.
If you go …
Where: Rainier Beach Community Center and Pool, 8825 Rainier Ave. S., Seattle WA, 206-386-1925
Age guidelines: See above for Open Swim age guidelines. Additional guidelines:
- All children 6 years and under must be in the water with an adult
- To use the slide you have to be four feet tall or ever; kids under four feet have to take a swim test
- To use the sauna/spa – at least 6 years old
Cost: Ages 1 and under always free. When you pay you’ll be given a colored bracelet to wear in the water. Open Swims have different colored bracelets and you do need to pay separately for each even if one butts up against another. Spray & Play costs $2 per person (including adults). Pool Playland, Recreation Swim, Public Swim cost $3.75-$5.25. Discounted 10-punch cards and 30-day FAST passes available.
Hours: Check the website for an updated schedule.
Lessons: Assistant Coordinator Erin Bruce emphasized that an important goal is to get the community involved in drowning prevention and water safety. The pool offers a full complement of swim lessons/classes beginning at 6 months all the way up to senior adults. Lessons for children up to 6 years are taught in the warmer 93-degree pool; a big deal as those of us know who’ve tried colder pools and ended up with children who turned blue.
Community center: The community center also offers a host of fun non-swim programs such as a toddler gym, youth sports and kids music/art classes, late night hours for teens 13-19 on Friday and Saturday, 7 p.m.-midnight, where they can take Mandarin classes, learn chess, play basketball, attend pre-lifeguard certification training and more. To find out about the community center's programming, go to the web page. Scroll down, under 'Print Brochures' you can find the latest class schedule and offerings.
See also: ParentMap's guide to indoor pools.
About the author: Sharon Chang lives in South Seattle, WA. She is among many things an early educator, graduate student in Human Development, researcher/writer, and blogger at at Multiracial Asian Families and Racism Review. But most importantly she is “mommy,” “mom,” and sometimes “mama” to an exhausting and totally awesome 3-year-old.