A new swimming pool for Bethel is 50 percent complete

Try saying, “the Yukon Kuskokwim Regional Aquatic Health and Safety Center” three times real fast. That is the name for the community’s new pool, currently being constructed by Bethel Services, Inc. (BSI), a construction company owned by Bethel Native Corporation. The building is going up on ten acres of City land in City Subdivision. 

“The pool is 50 percent complete,” said Doug Cobb, Project Manager for Project Development Associates (ProDev) based in Anchorage.” Nearly all of the construction materials are already in Bethel.” Project Development Associates was hired by the City to manage the construction project. 

The $23 million project represents the largest capital project the City has ever done. According to Mike Nevenzel, construction manager with ProDev, the building is expensive due to the special foundation required in Bethel’s permafrost to hold 1.2 million pounds of water, the high cost to ship materials to Bethel, and the Davis Bacon wages paid to the workers. 

The six-lane competition size pool, family slide area, and kiddie pool will have walls to separate them, but all share the same 133,000 gallons of water. The depth of the pool will range from 3.5 feet to 7 feet. It will be deep enough to host swim meets that use starting blocks for diving and allow for recreational jumping and diving off the side of the deep end.

A diving board was ruled out early in the planning process because of the high operating costs associated with heating the air space required above the diving board and the cost to heat the water required for a 12 ft. deep pool. 

The floor of the pool is made from poured concrete, while the sides are sprayed with shotcrete. BSI filled the pool with water piped from the City Subdivision Water Treatment Plant on November 3, 2013, to test the concrete’s ability to hold water, the strength of the foundation, and monitor other settling aspects. After two days of fill time, they discovered a few small leaks and compression of the wooden ground barrier, formed a plan to repair them, and continued with the project. 

“That is why they do the test,” said Mike. “The amount of water in the pool weighs over one million pounds. We need to be certain the structure will support it. The next fill test will be done in early January 2014 and last for six days.”  

Mike Nevenzel gave a tour of the building recently to City Mayor Joe Klejka, Public Works Committee Chairman Frank Neitz, Public Works Committee Members Scott Guinn and Delbert Egoak, and Bethel Community Services Foundation Director Michelle DeWitt. The crew on the tour was surprised by the immensity and complexity of the project. 

“I couldn’t believe how big it was,” said the Mayor. “Adding those two extra lanes really made this a large pool. And the hot tub that is supposed to hold 17 people looks like it can hold 30.”

“I too was amazed by the scope of the project,” said Michelle. “There is the family pool with slide, the lane pool, exercise room, and weight room. I think the facility will be a wonderful recreation opportunity for our community and people living in the region.”

“I’ve been in the construction field for 15 years,” said Guinn, “and I was impressed with the logistics, coordination, and capability of the construction team. They are getting a lot done in a timely manner.”

“We’re on budget and ahead of schedule,” said Mike. “The building envelope is done. The pool has been tested. The sheetrock crew will be here in the next few weeks. If all goes as well as it has thus far, we should be able to make our substantial completion milestone of September 30, 2014.” The aquatic center is expected to open November 1, 2014.

City of Bethel press release