By Matt Roy, Independent Newsmedia
In just a few days, the pool will once again be open for business.
Recreation Centers of Sun City West officials announced completion of the pool complex renovation at the R.H. Johnson Recreation Center, 19803 R.H. Johnson Blvd., which will open its doors again 6 a.m. Monday, Aug. 28.
When it closed Jan. 3, the nearly 40-year-old aquatic facility had fallen into disrepair, requiring frequent and expensive repairs to keep it open, RCSCW Recreation Activities Manager Cindy Knowlton explained.
“Part of the reason we started this project was the pool was failing. We had lots of breakdowns and high maintenance costs, with bad plumbing. Every time we dug it up, we had to replace a lot of pipes,” she said. “We realized we would eventually have to do something, that we could make it so much better for our residents. It’s all new now and will not require that kind of expense or effort to maintain.”
RCSCW General Manager Mike Whiting also touted the value of the new complex in an email statement.
“As we approach our 40th anniversary, we reflect on the legacy of the Del Webb concept — affordable well-built senior communities with outstanding amenities. The association has planned ahead to insure the continuation of this concept. Renovation of the R.H. Johnson aquatic center will be a significant improvement and one every member can be proud of,” he stated.
Ms. Knowlton said residents can start using the newly dubbed the R.H. Johnson Swim & Fitness Center early Monday, Aug. 28.
“It’s a soft open, but we will be open for business just like any normal day,” Ms. Knowlton said.
The regular Monday schedule starts with lap swimming and water walking 6-7:30 a.m. The pool will close at 7:30 a.m. for deep water exercise class, which runs 7:45 a.m.-8:30 a.m. Open swimming is 10 a.m.-9 p.m. and the fitness center will be open 6 a.m.-9 p.m.
Among others, Ms. Knowlton credited former RCSCW board member Kenny Jordahl, who nearly five years ago advocated for creating a new gathering spot at the R.H. Johnson campus.
“That was a vision of his,” Ms. Knowlton said. “Though it didn’t turn out just as he imagined, we have made it our own and connected both parts of the campus to create a social gathering space for everyone. It’s just going to be a great place for people to be with each other.”
She also praised the residents, board members and staff who worked to bring their vision to life over the past years. Over the course of three years, more than 300 participants attended public events, resident groups, facility tours and committee meetings to design and plan the renovation.
“We visited a lot of pools and considered a lot of ideas,” Ms. Knowlton explained. “They really dedicated themselves to representing the residents. We visited with clubs and held two open hearings and made several rounds of changes based on the input we got. This is the pool. They helped to design it and make it what it is.”
The eight-month project was completed on-time and on-budget, Ms. Knowlton said, praising the work of primary contractor Foresite Construction and its pools specialist, Shasta Pools.
“Their work has been really good and they’ve been very attentive to details,” she said.
Now the largest in the community, the 350,000-gallon pool boasts a variety of innovative features, including a dedicated water walking path, competitive swimming lanes and a zero-entry area for maximum accessibility. Four large, movable shade structures will provide relief from the sun, either over the pool or around its perimeter.
“There are cantilever shades — giant umbrellas — placed around the pool to provide shade. They can be moved over the deck or over the pool or can be taken down,” Ms. Knowlton said.
Social hot spot
Apart from the pool itself, the whole complex and surrounding area was designed to foster social activities and connect people to each other, as well as the pool complex to the other facilities at the campus, Ms. Knowlton said.
“On the pool deck is a raised patio area covered with sail cloth,” she said. “In that area are two fire pits with new outdoor lawn furniture. We are hoping it will bring more people to the area in the evenings when the weather is nicer. We also got new furniture in the upper plaza, which now connects to the lower deck.”
A wide stairway and ADA-compliant ramp connects the areas near member services and the crafts village to the complex below, passing by the great lawn and raised stage. The great lawn, Ms. Knowlton said, is an open, grass seating area and will not pose an undue burden on the corporation’s water supply.
“We have thousands of acres of grass we tend for the golf courses,” she said. “This is a tiny patch of grass, which will seat up to 400 people who can bring their own chairs. The venue also has an outdoor kitchen with two barbecue grills and picnic seating for an additional 120 people.”
Happy hour events were previously hosted on the second and fourth Wednesdays at the courtyard at Kuentz Recreation Center, 14400 R.H. Johnson Blvd. That venue can only accommodate 200 people and happy hours will be moved to the new R.H. Johnson venue starting in November.
“We had to turn a lot of people away at Kuentz, but the new area more than triples the capacity, with room for 620 to attend events at R.H. Johnson,” Ms. Knowlton said. “We’re also looking to schedule cultural events and to get some different kinds of entertainment we don’t already have in Sun City West. This could be a great venue for Native American dancers and flute players or for classical guitar.”
Indoors, in the new lobby area, a coffee bar called The Buzz will offer a variety of beverages and snacks. The offerings will be based on results of a resident survey conducted by RCSCW staff members during the spring.
“We had really good response to the survey, with over 600 participants. Apart from coffee drinks, they mostly seem to want margaritas and wine. Unfortunately, no,” Ms. Knowlton said with a chuckle, clarifying that rec center officials will not be seeking a liquor license for café.
The pool’s filtration system features state-of-the-art technology, including high-volume filtration, an ultraviolet sanitizer and an oxygenation system. Russ Boston, RCSCW facilities manager, said the pool will be easier to maintain and healthier to use.
“This pool is ginormous compared to the old one,” Mr. Boston said. “First, we have standard filtration, but with a filtration ratio which is the highest in the state. This by itself is huge from a pool operations standpoint, because the more water flow you have, the cleaner it will be.”
The UV sanitizing system reduces the amount of chlorine needed, making the pool both cleaner and more enjoyable to use. The oxygenation system also reduces the chlorine needed for maintenance, further cutting costs and protecting swimmers, he explained.
“The oxygenation is something new. Our pools were the first in the state to use it. It’s healthier and further reduces the amount of chlorine we need to use,” Mr. Boston said.
Rec centers officials will host the official grand opening celebration all day Saturday, Sept. 16, starting with a 9 a.m. ribbon cutting and concluding at 9 p.m.
After the ribbon cutting, the café will be open for the first time. There will be water yoga and Zoomba demonstrations in the pool, as well as swim team relay races, followed by free root beer floats served at 11:30 a.m.
Demonstrations of the new fitness on demand program in the fitness center will run 1-4 p.m., with four classes and more than 88 exercise options to choose from for the personalized video exercise system. A surf band will perform 5-9 p.m. at the great lawn stage. Attendees are invited to bring their own lawn chairs and enjoy the free show, with chips, sodas, hot dogs, ice cream and bottled water available to purchase.
Mr. Whiting reiterated the benefit of the completed facility and encouraged residents to turn out for the special event.
“We have taken this important step to protect home values and keep Sun City West the number one retirement community in America,” he stated. “Please come and enjoy!”