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Contractors putting the finishing touches on the new Chehalem Aquatic Center facility

GARY ALLEN - The new leisure pool at the Chehalem Aquatic and Fitness Center, including the 'lazy rive'" feature at center, will be a major attraction when the Chehalem Park and Recreation District completes the $20 million project later this month.

With the heavy construction equipment gone, the parking lot painted and more than half of the exterior plants now in the ground, the new Chehalem Aquatic Center appears close to complete from the outside.

The exciting part, though, is that it feels just as close to complete on the inside of the $20 million facility, which the Chehalem Park and Recreation District is set to dedicate with a grand opening event June 7.

"We've been giving tours to different groups to give them an idea what the pool looks like," project manager Jim McMaster said. "Friendsview came by last week and some of the water-exercise groups we have, we've given them tours, the college. All of them are pretty excited, it seems."

The big question is whether the pool will open to the public prior to the big celebration and, according to McMaster, the answer is a soft opening could come as soon as May 28.

"It's hard to say, like with any building," McMaster said. "We have to get sign off from a bunch of different agencies and some we already have."

He added that there is a fire code issue still pending that could delay the opening further, but that he hopes CPRD will get the go ahead from the city of Newberg and the Oregon Department of Health, which oversees pools, to take occupancy the week of May 21. GARY ALLEN - The Newberg Volunteer Firefighters Association donated the fire truck play structure and water fountain features in the Chehalem Aquatic and Fitness Center's new leisure pool. The facility is tentatively scheduled to open to the public the final week of May, with a grand opening event scheduled for June. 7.

In the meantime, there are seemingly countless minor details and projects that need to be completed, including some grout and tile work around the facility's leisure and competitive pools.

McMaster said he hopes to reach "substantial completion" with general contractor Triplett Wellman in the coming weeks so that he can begin going through his punch list, a compilation of all the tasks and projects he needs to confirm that have been completed before he can release contractors and tradesmen from the project. Some of that work, he said, can be done after the building opens to the public, though.

"It's all sorts of small stuff," McMaster said. "Like last week, they were putting in mirrors or we have some tile work that needs to be redone a little bit. You could look at a lot of different trades and they're not complete yet totally. It's always that little stuff. It's same with new schools. When the kids are in school, you'll still see contractors out there doing little stuff."

McMaster and aquatics coordinator Tara Franks said they will take the first week of occupancy to train staff in the new facility and to make sure all of the building's various systems are fully operational.

"We need to make sure our lifeguards are well trained for this facility," McMaster said. "We want to take the time to do that. I'm not going to rush anything when it comes to safety."

Franks reported that she has already hired 23 new employees, doubling the size of the staff, and may have to hire more this summer. She and McMaster said they are actively looking for adults, including active seniors, for many positions even if most people tend to think the pool only hires teenagers and college students.

"It's daytime hours, for the most part, so even those folks whose kids have finally made it into all-day school, the stay-at-home parent could get three or four hours a day," Franks said. "It's very exciting."

Franks and McMaster are also attempting to spread the word ahead of time about a new shoe policy that will be implemented when the facility opens. Pool users will no longer be allowed to wear street shoes on the pool deck and instead must wear clean flip flops, water shoes or go barefoot because the both pools are "zero-depth," meaning there is lip or drop off between the deck and the water. Instead the pools feature grated gutters that catch the overflow, so dirt and debris will wash off of shoes that have been worn outside and compromise the filtering systems.

The pool also features state-of-the art plaster coating, as opposed to paint. The plaster is more durable, but is also rougher on bare feet, so pool or water shoes could become a popular choice among pool patrons.

"We will truly be a street-shoe-free zone," Franks said.

The plus side is that by using a combination of filtering technology, including UV treatment, the pool water will contain much less chlorine than the current facility.

"We're hoping to be a test site for other pools across the United States because of the systems we put in," McMaster said. "We're already getting people coming from other places either looking to build pools or renovate."

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