By John Schaffner

Buckhead and Sandy Springs residents who have been regular summer visitors to the Chastain Park Pool will likely notice a lot of changes this season after $1 million of repairs and changes to the facility.

But those who have not been regulars, may just think it looks pretty good for an old pool and bath house constructed in the early 1940s, states Jim King, president of the Chastain Park Athletic Club, who has visited the pool almost every day watching a total renovation in progress.

“There was $1 million set aside from the city opportunity bond money which is being used for all this work,” King explained on a hot, sunny afternoon just 10 days before the pool’s May 17 opening.

“Last summer the community voted on what they thought was going to be $1.5 million spent here. It was changed to $1 million. So, we had to readjust our plans,” he said. “Some of the community is expecting certain things to be done.” He said some of that changed, because of the reduction in bond money. “That is OK,” he added. “We sort of innovated.”

But King makes no apologies. He points to significant improvements that have been accomplished by the public/private partnership of the city of Atlanta, which owns the facility, and the non-profit Chastain Park Athletic Club, which operates it under a lease from the city.

The most visually apparent change to the pool is the addition of two bulkheads that separate the pool into three areas — a deep end for diving, a central area with 10 lanes for competitions and a shallow end for smaller children and mothers with their toddlers. The diving area has depths up to 10 feet. The swimming lane area depth ranges from four to six and a half feet deep. King said he was not sure what the depth of the shallow end is now after much work on the pool, but it had been around two feet deep, he said.

With the bulkhead having been added, there now are four sides for the shallow end, King explained. Two steps were also added there, “so that little kids can use that area with their mothers” since, there is no kids pool.

“For the first that I know of, you will be able to swim in the four to six and a half foot deep area,” King said. “We will put lanes in for swim meets and take them out when not needed to better serve the public.” There will be starting platforms on one side of the competition lanes area and when the get the money they will add them on the other side. He said they are removable platforms and will not be there except for swim team practice and swim meets.

Continuing to point out the new improvements, King said there is 50 percent more piping under the pool deck — to capture all of the water that comes from the scupper system that has been installed.

“We recreated a surge tank that is going to re-circulate the water,” he explained. “Hence, the water is going to be much warmer this year, which has always been a concern. There has always been a legend that this is spring fed and it is the coldest pool in Atlanta. We are hoping to change that this year.”

As part of the renovation work, the 30- to 40-year-old sand filters have been replaced with cartridge filters, “which means we are going to save an additional 90,000 gallons of water this summer,” King pointed out. “With the old sand filters, you had to backwash them and every time you did that you lost 5,000 gallons of water,” King stated. “When we are done, we may have the most efficient pool from a water standpoint in these parts.”

The main drain was replaced, “because its integrity was in question,” he said. “So, we have a complete new and efficient water circulation system. All we can really lose is splash water and evaporation. If we go into a drought situation again with strong restrictions, we can probably make a strong argument to keep this pool open,” he added.

The former kids’ pool area was concreted over to create more pool deck, because the restoration and maintenance of the kids pool was too expensive. The first two rows of the spectator bleachers were removed to create a terrace area where they may place tables of lounge chairs.

King had great praise for the Cherokee Town Club, which donated their old pool furniture to the association when they bought new furniture. “They did this once before four or five years ago,” he said. “It helps to save money for the charitable non-profit.” The donation consisted of 184 lounge chairs, 99 straight-back chairs, 17 large tables and seven small tables. “That is quite a contribution,” he added.

In the bathhouse, the floor is being resurfaced so that it is non-slip. Partitions have been added in the showers in both locker rooms. The bathrooms have new lights, toilets and sinks.

The Athletic Club only uses the lower level of the Bath House. The Galloway School uses the upper floor.

“Everything being done has a purpose, either to better serve the public or make the pool more efficient,” King stated. “We are not trying to be fancy. We have a very old pool and we are trying to make it as efficient as we can.”

He said the Athletic Club is hoping to find an economic model to extend the season later into the fall and start earlier in the spring; Presently they close the pool after labor day. “It could probably stay open until November,” King said. “We had explored a solar heating system for the pool and had a price, but it got cut in the budget. We are going to revisit it after we see how the pool operates.”

The Chastain Park Athletic Club administers the facility. It hires the people who are in charge of admissions and is responsible for lifeguards, chemicals, maintenance. The city’s burden is the water and electric bill.

King said the club has “a great swim team with about 250 kids. It won all regular meets last year and finished third in Atlanta swimming championship. We have had 750people in the stands when the team competed against Brookwood Hills at the pool.”