A swimming hole for Houston or a hole in the wallet?

It seems that hardly a day goes by when someone isn’t mentioning the Houston Needs a Swimming Hole project, which, when you think about it, is a tribute to its imagineers, Monte Large, Jeff Kaplan, and Evan O'Neil. The pool boys’ idea, in case you’ve been under a rock (or out swimming?), is for the city to build a 10-acre swimming pool somewhere in the heart of town, a Houston version of, say, Webber Park Pool in Minneapolis or Brisbane, Australia’s Streets Beach.

Far be it from us to reject anything that might alleviate our city’s summer heat, but something bothered us about the proposal. Perhaps it was that we are Houstonians, and for Houstonians to build something that was merely big seemed very un-Houston-like. Houstonians don’t build medical centers, they build the largest medical center in the world; they don’t have a kind-of-huge rodeo, etc.  

Which brings us to San Alfonso del Mar.

That would be the 19-acre pool on the Chilean coast that is generally considered to be the world’s largest, at least for the moment. One thousand meters long and filled with 250 million liters of seawater, San Alfonso wasn’t cheap to build—experts estimate its price tag at close to $1.5 billion—but the massive attraction has become a travel destination since its completion in 2006. In one fell swoop a hitherto sleepy town 100 miles west of Santiago was blessed with a bona fide tourist magnet. Remind you of another town you’ve heard of? 

Something along the lines of San Alfonso del Mar would be incredible. If Houstonians want big, let's go big!

“Something along the lines of San Alfonso del Mar would be incredible,” Monte Large told us. (Given his last name, we figured he’d be the most sympathetic to our proposal.) “This is the kind of input we need right now. If Houstonians want big, let's go big!”

All right, we thought, let’s. First things first: we need to raise the money. By the way, we wondered, how much had the pool boys saved up so far? 

“Thirty thousand dollars.” 

Wait, what?

“Thirty thousand dollars propels the first phase of the feasibility study,” said Large. “There are still a ton of questions that need to be answered before moving on to the next phases. The feasibility has begun, and we are meeting with city and community stakeholders, environmental groups, land owners, management districts, researchers, and just about anyone who we can think of in order to help make this project happen.” 

Well, okay but…$30,000? Large assured us that fundraising had not yet begun in earnest. 

“We want this to be a landmark in the city and something of which Houstonians are proud,” he said. “The more and better input we receive, and the more partnerships we can form, the better the project will be.”

Having reached the end of our input, we said goodbye to Large, even as we silently vowed to remain patient. Any pool would be better than none, we thought, pulling out our calculator. 

Let’s see, now. If $1.5 billion will get you a 250-million-liter pool, how much pool will $30,000 buy?

One thousand, three hundred gallons, or roughly enough to fill a nine-by-five-foot aquarium. Hmm. Better keep shaking those trees, boys.

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