ST. PETERSBURG — Starting Monday, the city will embark on a $312,000 renovation project at the North Shore Pool complex.
Some of the work being done is regularly scheduled maintenance. But the bulk of the money, officials say, is aimed at resurfacing the 50-meter pool, which will be closed until late March.
That's because about a year and a half ago, city officials learned that the width of the Olympic-sized pool, which was last resurfaced in 2004, is too short and currently does not meet USA Swimming standards for a certified pool.
How short is the pool?
"It comes down to less than a quarter of an inch," said Gretchen Tenbrock, the city's recreation manager.
That may not sound like much, Tenbrock said, but it matters at North Shore.
The facility, closed only two days a year, is used by both recreational and competitive swimmers year-round. It's billed as the city's premier swimming complex.
Having a certified pool ensures that if a record is broken there, it will be recognized.
"This is a busy place," Tenbrock said. "We want to make sure we have a competitive pool."
The situation, however, may already have cost the city at least one major competitive swim meet in the past couple years.
In September 2009, Tenbrock said, the local Masters swim team put in an application for a national event. As part of the application, it used a handheld device to measure the pool. After discovering the measurements were off, it notified the city and withdrew its application for the meet.
The city then ordered the pool to be professionally surveyed. A laser was used to measure each lane in the pool, revealing the slight discrepancy.
That was the first time the city learned something was off with the pool, which had been resurfaced in 2004. The pool had been measured after that project as well, Tenbrock said, but in a different way.
Tenbrock said it's unlikely that the city will be able to recoup money it spent on the 2004 job.
The company that did the work, S&S Pools, is no longer in business. A person who served as a representative for the company has died, Tenbrock said.
"There's no recourse there," she said. "Once we found out, we acted immediately. This was the next available time period."
It's also unclear whether the company would have been on the hook anyway.
Tenbrock said that while the city asked for and received a 10-year guarantee, the pool probably would have required resurfacing soon anyway.
"The product is generally good for five years to nine years … so we are in that time frame," she said.
The 50-meter pool, one of three pools at the complex, will be shut down through March. The 25-meter pool at the complex will remain open; the play pool is closed for the season.
Other renovations, including updating the complex's ancient electrical system, also are planned.
"Pools require a lot of maintenance," Tenbrock said. "The pool is in need of repair and maintenance work in many areas. Every year we look at what needs to be done."
Work will begin Monday, said Wade Hooper, vice president of Pinellas Pools Inc., which won the contract.
Hooper said his Hudson-based company specializes in this type of work, and has worked on other pool projects for St. Petersburg.
He said his company is bringing in a special surveying engineering firm to lay down the guidelines. Crews will have to strip away the surface that's there now and rebuild a new one, he said.
The company has given the city a 10-year guarantee on the surface, Tenbrock said.
It also will retile, repair the lane rope anchors and reconstruct the perimeter of the pool. The pool will be measured at least four times during the whole process, Hooper said.
"It's not easy at all. There's no easy way about it," Hooper said. "But it's gotta be accurate."
Kameel Stanley can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8643.