Editor's note: This article is the third part in a multiphase series on the Department of Parks and Recreation and its inability to maintain parks, gymnasiums, pools and other assets. A revolving door attached to the Department of Parks and Recreation director's office, inconsistent and poor leadership, and a lack of funding have led to the department's many assets having fallen into disrepair. Less than two months ago, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero appointed Roque Alcantara as the latest DPR department head. In this article, we learn that Sen. Kelly Marsh has asked Alcantara to find temporary solutions for the community to exercise and train while the Dededo pool is returned to service and a new pool can be constructed.
As the 2019 novel coronavirus and fear spread across the world, the International Olympic Committee postponed the 2020 Tokyo Games to 2021. With an extra year until competition, world federations are using the time to shave off time and prepare for the Summer Olympics.
While the world is getting ready, Guam doesn’t even have a pool. And with the beaches and coastal waters off-limits to team practices, even the inviting ocean isn’t an option for the Guam Swimming Federation. But with the occasional men-of-war and bit-too-curious shark sightings, and the inability to train properly in an uncontrolled environment filled with surge and rip currents, even after Guam crawls out from Pandemic Condition of Readiness 1, Team Guam has no where to train.
As the Hagåtña pool lies in ruin, a 50-year-old Olympic-size headache that was built on a swamp and is sinking, and the two-decade-old Southern High School pool was left to decay immediately after the 1999 South Pacific Games, and with the Dededo pool closed for renovations, stakeholders and lawmakers are looking for answers.
On Sept. 9, parks oversight committee Chairperson Sen. Kelly Marsh, Sens. Regine Biscoe Lee and Telo Taitague, Department of Parks and Recreation officials and board members, and stakeholders discussed possible solutions.
Among the possibilities, the discussion turned to use of the pools at Naval Base Guam and hotels, including LeoPalace Resort, which boasts a competition-ready, Olympic-size pool.
“I really encourage the director to look at these different possibilities because I don’t think it’s going to be one possibility that answers everything,” Marsh said to Roque Alcantara, the newly appointed director of Parks and Recreation. “It’s going to have to be reaching out for a little bit of access through (the Department of Defense), a little bit of access to LeoPalace, and maybe a little bit of access for the manamko.’”
For those with special-needs, such as members of Special Olympics Guam, Marsh asked Alcantara to also look into pool time at other hotels.
Until a long-term solution is presented, the government’s four-person pool task force is searching for ways to build a new facility while the competition-unfriendly Dededo pool comes back online.
Without a concrete plan and with the foreseen years it will take for an idea to become a reality, the island demands a temporary solution.
“The bridge is going to be key,” Marsh said. “We have the Olympics coming up, and we do have community needs.”
I don’t think that the department has any capabilities trying to get an alternative for the manamko’, for the children, and all that, Alcantara said.
“The only thing I can think of is LeoPalace, but it costs a lot to utilize the facilities up there.”
Joann Camacho, the deputy director at the Guam Economic Development Authority, and a member of the pool task force, said that GEDA may have found a funding source to build a brand new, Olympic-size facility.
She also said that a recent walk-through of the Hagåtña pool revealed that it was not worth fixing.
“It’s not worth going in and keeping it maintained,” she said. … “Yeah, you can say, 'we can go back in and Band-Aid it,' but then we’re going to have to Band-Aid it in another two or three years once we do that.”
The task force, comprising Alcantara, Camacho, Ray Topasna, the director of the Guam Housing and Urban Renewal Authority; and Sonny Perez, an account executive at GHURA, has met three times and is nearly ready to bring its report to Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero.
“We’ll share the plan, if not this week, next week on possibly building a new pool,” Camacho said.
With all three public pools having completely failed or in need of repair, Clayton Duvall, who managed Quality Swimming Pools and has more than 40 years of expertise, suggests that the government put more thought into any pool projects than it had in the past.
“Regardless of what the government decides to do with the Dededo pool or any new pool they may want to build, the process of coming up with a plan should include those in the operation and maintenance end of things before they sign off on an engineering design,” he said. “Engineers, by trade, will give design things that are perfectly acceptable from an engineering standpoint, but not always practicable from a maintenance and operation perspective.
“You have to make it simple to operate and maintain. That can be built into the design, but someone actually has to communicate that to the designers.”
"We’re looking at building a new pool and fast-tracking it," Camacho said.
Camacho, who said that she had heard that the repair and two-year maintenance contract for the Dededo pool would be released next week, also suggested a much-needed short-term solution.
“We need to bridge it because there is nothing we can do to fix Agana,” she said.
"It’s broken, it’s sinking, it’s not built in a right area," she added.
Alcantara said that once the pool contract is awarded, repairs should take 60 to 90 days.
In the meantime, with nowhere to go, the Guam Swimming Federation, historically the island’s most successful sporting contingent with over 75 medals from international competitions, is dry-docked.
“Build a new pool,” said GSF President Ed Ching. “I would love to have a new pool, but that is going to take two, three years down the line.”
“The problem becomes, ‘what do we do in between?’” he asked.
“As a team, we’ve talked to the hotels and, individually, they don’t listen to me,” he said. “They won’t help me, I’m not strong enough.”