SARATOGA SPRINGS — The 55-year-old brick bathhouse at Peerless Pool will be torn down and replaced with a greener, smaller and more modern facility, state Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey said Tuesday.
“It’s inefficient, it’s too big and it’s not green enough,” said Harvey, while flanked by city and state officials and surrounded by the swimming facility’s brick walls. “And this pool and this community, and these families, get and deserve a lot more.”
The $2.9 million project involves adding green space with picnic tables and three covered areas. There will also be modernized restrooms and changing areas, LED lighting, solar panels on the roof and overhanging eaves that will give shade to swimmers when they’re not in the pool, Harvey said.
The entrance of the pool, one of two at Saratoga Spa State Park, will be turned into a courtyard with flowers and benches, she said.
“Basically, were going to right-size this — this is sprawling concrete,” she said. “We’re going to take two-thirds of that and green it for all of the users.”
The pool itself, which features waterslides and a kiddie pool, will not be renovated.
During a tour of the facility Tuesday, Harvey pointed to its maze-like quality.
“It's a cavern,” she said. “You have to find your way to an old and dilapidated bathroom.”
The tour wound through a changing area, past the bathrooms and up to two large, swinging wooden doors. On the other side, patches of grass sprouted through a concrete floor, and red and blue swimming lane dividers coiled together in a pile like snakes in a pit. Harvey showed reporters a dark, dusty room that used to be used for concessions.
“That’s gone; it’s green,” she said, referring to the planned renovations.
The pool will close early for the summer on Monday, in order to give construction crews enough time to complete the work before the next swimming season begins in late June, Harvey said. The contractor, Rexford-based Riverview Construction, wanted to start at the beginning of the summer, she said.
Harvey said she couldn’t promise that the rebuild would be done by the start of summer 2018, saying a major storm in the fall or winter might throw off the schedule. The work was projected to take 18 months and is being squeezed into 10, she said.
“We’re on a really, really tight timeline,” she said. “In fact, we were advised to close this summer early on.”
Crews will start by removing fixtures and demolishing the dilapidated bathhouse, which was built in 1962. The goal is to have the foundation and frame of the new building built before snowfall “so we can work right through the winter, and that will give us a fighting chance,” Harvey said.
Users of the pool voiced concerns last week about the early closure, as did people who swim at the park’s smaller Victoria Pool and fear it will become too crowded for the remainder of the swimming season.
In response to those concerns, state parks officials are extending the season at Victoria Pool — keeping it open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Sept. 17 — and lowering the price to make it comparable to the cost of swimming at Peerless Pool.
Completing the work without the early closure would not have been possible, Harvey said. “We're already pushing the envelope.”
With that in mind, it made sense to close in mid-August, when most of the summer swim programs are wrapping up and school children start preparing for fall sports, Harvey said. The pool has about 31,000 users each summer, and as many as 1,000 people use the pool on a hot day in July. But by the middle of August, the numbers drop to a couple-hundred daily, she said.
Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner, D-Round Lake, thanked Harvey for responding to the community’s concerns about the “disruption” of closing the pool early by extending the season at Victoria Pool.
“While that’s not necessarily going to be exactly accommodating, it will help to ensure that people can continue to enjoy the state park and the state park pools into the fall,” she said.
Woerner said she was born in 1962, the year the bathhouse was built, “so I know the feeling of aging facilities."
“So clearly, it is time for this facility to experience a renaissance,” she added.
Heather Mabee, who volunteers as chairwoman of the Saratoga-Capital Region Parks Commission, said that group has eyed bathhouse renovations for more than 20 years.
“It has been on my to-do list, but unfortunately the funds have not been there,” she said.
Funding for the project comes from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s NY Parks program, which received $120 million in this year’s state budget.
Mabee said her neighbor in Saratoga Springs is 78 and uses the pool every day.
“This is her favorite pool, and she said to me today, ‘Thank God, you’re finally going to fix up the Peerless Pool and make it as beautiful as the other pools and the other facilities in Spa State Park,’” she said.
Alane Ball Chinian, the regional state parks director, thanked the park managers, engineers, maintenance workers and lifeguards who have helped maintain the structure over the years, saying no one will be happier to see the improvements.
“This has been a beautiful and wonderful resource ... for a long time, and we’re so excited to announce the plans today to make it even better,” she said.
Mayor Joanne Yepsen thanked the governor for committing the funds to the project.
“This is really a big deal for our city,” she said.