Pool group closing in on sites

The group of Sonoma residents, pushing for a community pool, is closing in on a location and looking to make an offer around springtime.

The Sonoma Valley Health and Recreation Association (SVHRA), a nonprofit comprised of Valley residents (including those in the former Citizens United for a Sonoma Pool) who want to bring a public pool to Sonoma, is actively looking at two locations and has a few on the back burner, with the help of local realtors Nicki Naylor and Chuck Lamp. The properties, all in the vicinity of Maxwell Park, need to be a minimum of 2 acres, with 3 to 3.5 acres being the ideal lot size to build the facility. Sam Coturri, a spokesman for the group, estimates that cost will be around $5 million, including building costs, but variability in property prices could increase the total budget.

While the group is not ready to release the specific locations of properties it is considering, the group has already begun talking to members of the surrounding neighborhoods to ensure that the community is supportive of the project. Eventually, Coturri explained, the group will hold meetings to hear public input and assure citizens their concerns will be considered and addressed in the plans.

“The challenge is, Sonoma is already a built-out town,” Coturri said.

The ideal spot, the group decided, is close to the center of Sonoma Valley – near Highway 12 and Verano Avenue. The group had originally hoped to build the pool at Maxwell Farms Regional Park, but when notified that they would have to wait for consideration until an update of the park’s master plan was completed – no earlier that 2015 – the board decided to pursue private property within a two-mile radius of the area.

Coturri is hopeful the group will make an offer on a location for the pool within the first quarter of 2014.

The group was founded on the belief that every community needs a pool to not only promote water safety, by providing a place for the public to learn to swim, but also to have a place where people can stay active and healthy. By positioning the pool in a central location along public transportation routes, the group aims to increase access, especially for those in underserved and at-risk populations.

“The ability to teach your child to swim is an economic stratifier,” Coturri told the Index-Tribune in late 2013. “Swimming is a life-saving skill and it’s a travesty that the community hasn’t made this happen yet.”

Momentum for the pool project continues to build, Coturri said last week. In June 2013, the United States Swimming Association selected SVHRA to host an in-house, “Build-a-Pool” conference, at which it counseled attendees on how to build an economically sustainable and beneficial facility. The swimming association also offered support to the group as it works to build the pool. Throughout 2013, the pool group began forming its donor base with charter members that included Hamel Family Wines owners Pam and George Hamel, Repris Wines owner Jim Momtazee and screenwriter Robert Mark Kamen, who also owns Kamen Estate Wines. The donors pledged seed money to support the multi-million dollar project and formed the cornerstone of the nonprofit’s fundraising efforts, said Coturri, who is group treasurer. SVHRA also launched its new brand campaign, “Sonoma Splash.”

Unlike the private Agua Caliente pool, or pools at gyms like Parkpoint, Sonoma Splash will not require memberships for entry.

The cost to swim will be affordable, with possible subsidized programs and scholarships for low-income families.

To make the pool financially sustainable, and to better serve the community, SVHRA plans include a recreational facility, with a 25-yard, eight lane pool, a kiddie pool, an instructional pool, a snack bar, locker rooms, reception area, picnic area, rock-climbing gym and dance or workout studios, similar to the Ives Pool in Sebastopol and the community pool in Calistoga. This mixed-use model makes it possible for families to come and stay engaged in activities, such as aqua-aerobics, pilates or rock climbing, while the children take swim lessons.

Coturri is joined on the group’s board by his mom, Arden Kremer, a local swim instructor who has been working to bring a community pool to Sonoma for the last 20 years.

Other board members include Mayor Tom Rouse, city councilmember and former mayor Ken Brown, former Nordstrom executive and competitive swimmer Paul Favaro, former Olympic swimmer and Index-Tribune Food and Wine Editor Kathleen Hill, longtime Sonoma resident and realtor Cynthia Wood, former Daly City mayor Madolyn Agrimonti, veteran architect Sidney Hoover and the newest member, former water polo coach at Justin-Siena High School and Irish National Water Polo team member, Tom Coughlan.

For more information on the pool project, visit sonomasplash.org.