CRANSTON – Mayor Ken Hopkins held a press conference Monday, March 27, to announce future plans for the Budlong Pool with a targeted opening for summer 2024.
Mayor Hopkins announced a multi-phase plan to renovate and reopen the community pool. The first phase of this plan will include a scaled down version of a new, zero-entry handicap accessible pool and a renovated bath house for the 2024 summer season. Later phases will include the addition of a splash pad, and possibly pickleball courts or other neighborhood amenities.
As one of the largest Olympic size pools in the region, Mayor Hopkins said, the Budlong Pool facility has been a community resource for thousands of families and children. It was built in the rise of the federal Works Progress Administration (“WPA”) that provided needed relief for unemployed Americans with jobs and income to those seriously impacted by the national depression. As a local symbol of the national infrastructure building program, it opened for use in 1940.
“Over the course of eight decades, this pool has seen some good years,” Hopkins said. “However, there have also been many years with physical and mechanical challenges to annually open it for community enjoyment. No public structure lasts forever. Today this facility stands in need of a major overhaul – not just another band aid approach where we spend good money for limited short term repairs.”
The last major overhaul of this pool was reported to be in 1997. Hopkins said many mayors have overseen minor renovations and short-term fixes to get through another summer program. The pool was closed in 2020 – prior to Hopkins taking office – due to the Covid health crisis.
“Upon taking office I quickly realized that the overall condition of the pool was unsafe and unwise to re-open with just a quick fix,” Mayor Hopkins said.
In the last season of use, the city only sold about 350 passes for the pool. Today, Hopkins said, the city is talking about spending millions of dollars to restore a facility that is not used or open year-round.
“That does not even touch on the operating expenses of running the pool with summer staff and lifeguards, the actual filling of the pool with water, and expenses like chemicals and routine equipment repairs,” Hopkins added.
While more and more residents have access to their own pools and our wonderful beaches than did eighty years ago, Hopkins said he “still believes that this facility should remain a community resource for family summer and recreational enjoyment.”
To target opening the pool for the summer of 2024, Hopkins will introduce an ordinance to the city council to utilize up to $350,000 from our American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to engage a design professional to prepare the actual construction documents to seek formal bids for the work. The mayor’s administration estimates the first phase, for the scaled down pool and rehabilitated bath house, will cost about $3.5 million.
“Second, this Friday (March 31, 2023) when I offer my proposed operating and capital budgets for the next fiscal year starting July 1st, I will include sufficient funding for this phase of the Budlong Pool project,” Hopkins said.
The Planning Commission recently approved the inclusion of these funds at the mayor’s request in the city’s five-year capital budget plan. The Finance Committee and full City Council will also need to approve that funding. Hopkins said the city is also still considering the use of additional ARPA funds instead of bond funds, and the city will determine this with collaboration with the city council through the budget process. With the help of congressional leaders, Hopkins added, the city has also secured a $750,000 grant for the pool upgrade.
“My staff is also pursuing other grants for this project to reduce the use of ARPA or capital bond funds,” Hopkins said. “…I look forward to joining all Cranston residents in the enjoyment of a new, safe and modern Budlong pool complex.”
The current conditions of the pool will not allow it to be open for this summer season. However, Hopkins announced the city is assembling an alternative program that may include other pools in the city for resident use.