ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A pool at North Domingo Baca Park in Albuquerque’s Northeast Heights has been years in the making but has not gotten off the ground. Now, neighbors are taking matters into their own hands.
According to the park’s master plan, the pool and aquatic facility will go on the dirt lot just west of the park’s multi-generational center. It’s been in the master plan for 20 years and neighbors are tired of waiting.
“Bottom line is it’s just time to have a facility on the east side that people can visit and it’d just do so much for everybody. High school swim teams, club swim teams could use it, we could have sectional and regional swim meets at the pool here in northeast heights,” Quint Seckler, a neighbor in the area and a longtime member of the area’s swimming community said. “There’s such a need for to get people into what we consider to be a lifetime sport. You know, swimming is one of the best lifetime sports out there, and like I said it’s been almost fifty years since we’ve had a new facility put up east of the river.”
Seckler, who coaches high school and club teams, said not having a pool in the area makes it hard to schedule practice for his teams. “It’s not just my situation, it’s a lot of situations of high school teams and club teams. There’s just not enough water in the city to accommodate all the different programs,” Seckler said.
Neighbors in the area said the area lacks a pool, forcing seniors, club, and high school swim teams to travel far for a pool or to pay for a private facility. Now, they are banding together to push for the long-awaited pool.
“I thought ok if there’s one more person then that halves the workload for me. And as we started to talk, it seemed like more neighbors wanted to do something about this. So, that’s when we decided let’s form a group…let’s mobilize the voices and the stories that are in these swimmers in our community who are desperate to have this pool be installed,” said Kelly Harrell, one of the group’s leaders and a neighbor in the area.
“Every other part of this park is done. It is time for this part of the park now and we’re willing to step in and put our time and effort in, in order to get it accomplished, to get it to the finish line,” Harrell said.
They started a new Nextdoor group dedicated to the project. In just about two weeks, the group has more than 100 members. They have regular meetings and plan to meet with city councilors, Mayor Tim Keller, and state legislators to get the pool done. Harrell explained why now is a critical time to keep the wave going.
“Right now, with the way the funding structure goes, inflation is always going to outpace the cost of what this pool is going to be. So, if we don’t act quickly, we’re going to be priced out again and again and again from ever having this thing installed,” Harrell said. “Election years always matter. This is also a bond voting year so we’ve got bond elections coming up….there’s at least a couple million dollars on this bond vote. We need citizens to show up and vote in favor of the bond which will help put this pool in…It is also Mayor Keller’s election year and we hope that he is listening.”
The aquatic facility will cost at least $17 million with millions still needed to fund the project. In a May 2020 document in which Mayor Keller recommends Huitt-Zollars, Inc. as the architect consultant for the design of the project, it said $8 million to $10 million are still needed for the project.
The design process is underway and is set to be completed in 2022. Harrell said anyone interested in joining the effort to push for the pool can request to join the pool’s Nextdoor group.