Columbia will open the city's first outdoor pool Friday

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COLUMBIA – The Albert-Oakland Family Aquatic Center will reopen Friday. Due to limited staff, it is the only outdoor city pool in Columbia with a scheduled opening.

There will be some safety measures in place, like limited capacity and social distancing guidelines.

Mike Griggs, director of Columbia Parks and Recreation, said it’s the community that made the fight to reopen Albert-Oakland for the summer worthwhile.

“It’s a way for us to pay back our community,” he said. “You don’t need to have a pool open. But, by having a pool open, it provides a recreational amenity for those people who don’t have pools and don’t have that experience. So, we felt like it was important for us to open up something, even if it was for a short period of time for a duration that didn’t last the whole summer.”

Each week, the Albert-Oakland Family Aquatic Center will be open Tuesday through Sunday for two sessions. The first session will be noon to 2 p.m., and the second session will be 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. In between each session, pool staff will sanitize and clean surfaces.

The aquatic center will be closed Mondays for cleaning. Griggs said staff will focus on power washing and cleaning indoor facilities, like the locker rooms, as well as the outdoor area.

As a part of the new normal, the center will not have any deck furniture, but pool attendees are allowed and encouraged to bring their own chairs to sit in.

Griggs said all city pools were likely open at this time last year, and while 2020 has seen a new schedule, he says this is a big step in continuing to reopen city facilities.

“Once we got to the point where the ARC was opened up, we were looking at we can do this,” Griggs said. “We can social distance at Albert-Oakland. We can control the gate. We can make sure we have a limited capacity. Once we started figuring out all those details, we started gearing up to open up as quickly as we could”

Griggs said other city pools are not currently scheduled to reopen because of a lack of staff.

He said the city usually has around 175 lifeguards by mid-June, but this year, they only have 35.

“It’s just going to be everything we can do to keep Albert-Oakland open,” he said.

Griggs said Albert-Oakland is reopening first because it’s the largest pool. The city is limiting the number of people in the aquatic center to 250 at a time. 

According to the Columbia Parks and Recreation website, Albert-Oakland is set to close the weekend of August 7 but will reopen for Labor Day Weekend.

Griggs said the department is assessing its operations on a daily basis and will reevaluate the opening of city pools, parks and playgrounds if COVID-19 cases start to spike again.