LONG BEACH - Diving legend Greg Louganis made a necessarily small splash at the Belmont Plaza Pool during the 1976 trials for the Montreal Summer Olympics on his way to bigger fame.

The Southern California native won a silver medal that year and later earned two golds in both the 1984 Los Angeles and 1988 Seoul Olympic games.

On Tuesday, Louganis, 53, made a big splash by showing up with a crowd of aquatics advocates asking the Long Beach City Council to include diving platforms in a proposed rebuild of the pool at Termino Avenue south of Ocean Boulevard.

Swimmers, divers and members of the community attend Tuesday’s Long Beach City Council meeting to participate in the discussion about building a
Swimmers, divers and members of the community attend Tuesday's Long Beach City Council meeting to participate in the discussion about building a temporary Belmont Pool in advance of building a replacement for the old pool, which has been deemed seismically unsafe. (Sean Hiller / Staff Photographer)

Louganis told the council he started diving in 1968, the year the Belmont Plaza Pool opened.

"I remember hearing about Long Beach, Belmont Plaza, being the jewel of the west for aquatic sports," said Louganis. "You have a wonderful opportunity to make this the jewel of the West Coast in 2013."

As it turned out, Louganis and the more than 100 swimmers and family members who packed the council chambers had done their job beforehand.

A motion presented by Councilmen Gary DeLong and Patrick O'Donnell directed staff to, among other things, include a separate indoor diving well in plans to rebuild the pool. It passed unanimously.


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DeLong, whose district includes the pool, said he was influenced by hundreds of emails in the past week and meeting with or talking to many people who are passionate about competitive swimming.

"I think we're all a lot more intelligent and knowledgeable about aquatics facilities than we were until just recently," said DeLong.

The councilman expressed confidence that the city would take the steps needed to build a world-class pool for the "current and next generation of Long Beach youth."

As an interim step, council members concurrently voted to approve a $4.3 million temporary outdoor pool in the adjacent parking lot that could be ready in five to eight months. The plan needs state Coastal Commission approval.

According to a staff report, a new facility would cost

$54 million to $62 million, and construction would take two to three years to complete. Funding would be drawn from the city's Tidelands resources.

The lower amount represents a project without diving equipment, while the higher range would have the diving equipment, city officials said.

The new indoor pool as currently planned would be

50 meters by 25 yards, with about half the pool consisting of shallow water between

3.5 feet and 4.5 feet. The remainder of the pool would be between 8 feet and 13 feet deep, allowing water polo matches and competitive swim events like the existing facility.

A separate warm-water pool would be next to the 50-meter pool and measure 60 feet by 30 feet, with a depth of 3 feet to 5 feet, plans show.

A proposed outdoor pool also measures 50 meters by 25 yards, is 8 feet deep and has an extended area adding 80 feet of shallow water, said officials.

Prior to the DeLong- O'Donnell motion's passage, Assistant City Manager Suzanne Frick said incorporating 5-meter, 7.5-meter, 10-meter and springboard diving platforms into the project would add between $2 million and $8.1 million to the cost and raise liability issues for general-public use.

But Curt Wilson, president of the Southern Pacific Association, suggested the cost would be an investment and help attract high-profile events.

"Big events are a cornerstone of a facility for revenue as well as bringing world- class competition," Wilson said.

The Coastal Commission has told Long Beach that any replacement facility must provide broad-based recreational opportunities, a prime objective of the state agency, and expressed reluctance to recommend approval of an aquatics facility that focuses on competitive swimming, according to a memorandum.

The Belmont Plaza Pool was closed Jan. 10 after an evaluation indicated it was seismically unsafe in the event of a 5.0-magnitude earthquake. 

The closure was made permanent last week.

eric.bradley@presstelegram.com, 562-499-1254, twitter.com/EricBradleyPT