The Wade King Student Recreation Center pool is open again for sports and students after being closed last year due to COVID-19.
It is accessible to all students at Western Washington University who are enrolled with at least six credits and retired Western employees.
Current Western Alumni Association members and any Western staff of faculty are also eligible to purchase quarterly memberships to the rec center and use the pool.
Youth Program Coordinator Richelle Williams said commodities offered at the pool are a leisure area with a small basketball hoop, a 32-person hot tub, equipment for aqua jogging, water aerobics, kickboards, pull buoys, caps and goggles to use when swimming.
The pool is open all days of the week with varying hours, Williams said.
Monday to Friday, hours are from 6:20 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. On Saturday, hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
On Monday, Wednesday or Thursday after 8 p.m. the pool is open but not accessible because water polo practices are in session.
The men’s and women's water polo teams are sports clubs that operate through Western. Water polo is currently the only sport club offered at the rec center pool.
Last year, the teams did not meet in person due to COVID-19 and the closure of the rec center. This year, they are able to meet and have co-ed practices with both teams, third-year and men’s water polo co-captain Jonah Gomes said.
“From all the players to the moms supporting the teams and all that stuff, everybody’s just super thrilled and super energetic to be back in the water doing what they love,” Gomes said.
Last year the teams met on the rec center field for practices, but they hadn’t been in the water until the beginning of this academic year.
For Western’s water polo teams, athletes wear their masks all the time and make efforts to be COVID-19 conscious.
“Any time you’re out of the water, you’re wearing a mask,” Gomes said.
Masks must be worn at all times in the rec center. This rule is strictly enforced, Williams said.
The same goes for Bellingham Public Schools swim teams who have only returned to the pool this year.
Dana Smith, communications manager for Bellingham Public Schools, said the COVID-19 safety procedures used by Bellingham schools during school and extracurriculars are working. The schools plan to keep the same guidelines for next season that are in place now.
The schools don’t have their own pool, so they practice at the Arne Hanna Aquatic Center, run by the city of Bellingham.
Smith said Bellingham Public Schools don’t test swimming athletes for COVID-19 because the sport is low contact, but they do test sports like football. Athletes are still required to wear masks regardless of the sport.
“At swim meets what it looks like is the student steps up onto the block, they take their mask off and set it down next to their chair,” Smith said. “They do their race, and they get back out and put their mask back on.”
Despite having limited crowds and having to mask up due to COVID-19, morale is still high.
“The students are wearing their masks but cheering each other on from the sidelines,” Smith said. “It kind of feels like a normal event.”