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City Heights Swim Center reopens after yearslong wait

After a roughly four-year wait, the City Heights Swim Center is back — with a lot of improvements.

The $4.6 million renovation project began in 2018 and faced delays during the pandemic. The upgrades include major renovations to the children's pool and main pool, as well as the installation of a new water play structure, slide, deck area and drainage system.

Jacob Aere
A group of kids enjoy the newly opened water play structure at City Heights Swim Center, May 20, 2022.

Four-year-old Manny Vazquez came to the pool with his mom, who was born and raised in City Heights.

Manny said he liked the new swim center and his favorite part was “the bucket that goes down” on the play structure.

His mom, Janet Vazquez, watched him from a nearby bench and couldn't stop smiling.

“It means a lot, actually, because growing up here I didn't have this. So having my kids have this is just a blessing. It brings so much joy,” Vazquez said. “We didn't have access to pools or anything like that. We live in apartments, you know, we live upstairs. So having access to community pools is just amazing.”

Jacob Aere
Four-year-old Manny Vazquez wears a life vest at City Heights Swim Center, May 20, 2022.

The mother of three said she’d already signed her kids up for swim classes at the public pool.

The City Heights Swim Center will be open three days a week to start: Monday, Wednesday and Sunday.

That’s less than some other pools across the city. Swimming pool manager Rae Weber said that was because of staffing shortages.

“It's been busy,” she said. “Last Sunday, I was not able to let everybody in. We had to pause admission for a while until some people left because I just didn't have enough lifeguards to cover the pool safely.”

Jacob Aere
A young boy heads out of the pool after riding down the waterslide, May 20, 2022.

Weber said the pool was trying to actively hire more staff to open on other days of the week.

Mayor Todd Gloria and City Council President Sean Elo-Rivera were joined by San Diego lifeguards, city staff and members of the community to officially reopen the swim center Friday morning.

San Diego Fire-Rescue Department Lifeguard Chief James Gartland said the renovated pool could save lives.

“I look at this pool a little bit different. Many people look at it as a sense of joy where you can come and swim and cool off in the summertime. I look at it as a lifesaving tool,” Gartland said. “Every person that learns how to swim in this pool is a life saved.”

Jacob Aere
A group of boys play in the City Heights Swim Center pool, May 20, 2022.

Weber said the city currently had four lifeguards on staff at the City Heights Swim Center, with a maximum capacity of 25 people per lifeguard.

She said the center had to share lifeguards with other pools to keep running.

“We are currently sharing staff with the Colina Del Sol Pool. The only reason we are open the three days a week is because their staff is coming over here,” Weber said.

Jacob Aere
A lifeguard sits in his watch tower at City Heights Swim Center, May 20, 2022.

Colina Del Sol Pool is a public facility in City Heights that’s open twice a week.

Though Vazquez lives closer to the other facility, her family will go out of their way to come to the newly renovated City Heights Swim Center, as she said the other space needs upgrades.

As a general assignment reporter, I report on a wide range of different issues that affect the diverse neighborhoods of San Diego County including business, health, arts & culture and politics.
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