Mayor Ted Wheeler Gives Columbia Pool, Set For Closure, A One-Year Reprieve

The aging North Portland natatorium is a financial drain on Portland Parks & Recreation's over-strapped budget.

Columbia Pool (Laurel Kadas)

It's budget season at City Hall and, as is the case nearly every year, there are high-profile city assets whose future is in doubt because expenses continue to rise faster than revenues.

Mayor Ted Wheeler today preemptively took one sure source of controversy off the table when he announced he and his council colleagues will fund Columbia Pool, located at 7701 N Chautauqua Boulevard in Columbia Park, for another year.

"Columbia Pool is treasured by the North Portland community for swim lessons, water fitness, and as a neighborhood gathering place," Wheeler said in a statement. "I'm pleased that we're able to keep the pool open for another year and I appreciate the passion of the community, the work of Portland Parks & Recreation, and the partnership of my council colleagues."

Unlike the city's other indoor pools which are parts of community centers which generate revenue from a variety of sources, Columbia is a stand-alone facility. The city says it costs $800,000 to operate but only generates about $310,000 from users. In addition, the building needs a new roof and HVAC system, which will cost about $5 million.

That distressing financial picture led the Parks Bureau a year ago to recommend closing the pool as part of an effort to address the bureau's budget crisis.

Related: Parks and Wreck: Portland's parks are a cherished gem. But they can't make ends meet.

After an outpouring of community support for saving the pool, City Council last year agreed to keep it open but only until June 2020. That decision came in a budget cycle dominated by discussion of the Parks budget, an experience Wheeler and his colleagues appear eager to avoid this year, as they tackle other issues, including what's billed as a three-year effort to consolidate some public safety support functions.

"Council is committed to putting Portland Parks & Recreation on solid financial footing," Wheeler said. "While work to secure new revenue continues, I'm glad that this pool will keep serving swimmers year-round in North Portland."

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