Natatorium faces uncertain future

By Doug Keeler (dkeeler@taftmidwaydriller.com
Taft Midway Driller

The Natatorium will not be opening in 2021 and may not open for several years, if ever.

The community's pool, currently owned and operated by the West Side Recreation and Park District, needs about $350,000 in repairs just to get it opened again.

The facility, which is at least 80 years, is going to need future repairs and it is expensive for the district to operate, officials said.

District Administrator Les Clark III said the pool has been losing about $100,000 per year in operating costs beyond the necessary repairs.

It was closed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Clark said the repairs are stacking up and its been operating on a year-to-year basis.

"Every year we hold our breath," he said at Monday nights board meeting.

Increases in the minimum wage have increased the operating cost, since there must be six or seven people working when it is open, Clark said.

Board member Rick Jorgensen said the community needs a pool, but it can't continue to operate the way it has and its going to take more resources than the district has to reopen it.

"It's a big loser, its a money pit," Jorgensen said.

He said he doesn't think the Rec can fix the pool without help,

"There's no way I can justify spending that kind of money without grant funds," he said.

Several different proposals to try to increase revenues at the pool were raised. But, since the pool is not heated, it is only usable for less than half of the year.

The Natatorium last underwent major repairs with federal funding obtained with the help from then-Congressman William F. Thomas about 18 years ago.

Clark said he has been in contact with the Taft Union High School District about operating a summer swim program through that facility.