If you went swimming early last month at Belmont Park’s historic pool, the Plunge, you likely noticed that the Wyland sea-life mural on the south wall was split from pool deck to high ceiling, exposing vertical steel beams. And if you stop by today, you’ll find the Plunge closed for repairs, with signs of construction throughout the Belmont Park complex.
Planned work on the Plunge pool at the Wavehouse Athletic Club was expected to take up to two weeks for replacement of the nearly 30-year-old filtration system with a modern one that uses fewer chemicals. But draining the pool revealed bigger problems: in places, water had seeped underneath the tile, some of which is dated from the 1920s, and patchwork repairs were failing.
“We were stepping in sections of the pool and could sink,” said Belmont Park’s director of operations, Justin Lopez. The Plunge will be closed until late April, while the pool is repaired and the uncommon small tiles are replaced. The San Diego History Center is ensuring that the new tile maintains the original look of the pool, which debuted in 1925 as the largest saltwater pool in the world.
When the now-freshwater pool reopens, it won’t be without its famous artwork. Accessing the old Plunge building’s interior steel structure for repair and reinforcement necessitated removal of sections of drywall, including some on which Wyland painted one his famous Whaling Wall murals in 1989.
Orcas off Point Loma will not be lost, however. Before repair work began, Wyland and his team took hundreds of digital photos of the mural. Steve Creech, executive director of the Wyland Foundation, said, “We have been working very closely with the developer to find a solution that not only retains the integrity of the former mural, but does something that we hope will be amazing for everyone.”
That solution involves using the photos to replicate the mural on glass panels, which will allow swimmers to enjoy the orcas as before, but will also be transparent from the opposite side of the interior wall, so that gym users can see into the pool area. The effect “will be like a bus wrap,” explained Lopez. The mural will also be illuminated and visible at night from outside the building.
It isn't only the Plunge that’s getting upgraded; hardhats and barriers are everywhere, as much of Belmont Park is being reworked. There are plans for a large rooftop deck, restaurants, new bathrooms, and more — even a zipline. The owners expect that by the start of summer, Mission Beach’s oceanfront park will be back and better than before.