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Commissioner Ryan Directs Nearly $60M in Development Fees to North Portland Aquatic Center

News Article
The highly anticipated swimming site is nearly fully funded.

(Portland, OR) –

Vibrant Communities Commissioner Dan Ryan, who oversees Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R), has allocated $59.8 million in additional Park System Development Charges (SDCs) to accelerate the construction timeline of the new North Portland Aquatic Center. This means the project has now secured $91.5 million of the $102 million, its estimated cost.

The much-anticipated swimming and water play destination, currently in the planning phase, is coming to North Portland’s Northgate Park. The new aquatic center will be accessible and transformative for the neighborhood and North Portland. Approximately 70,000 people—including roughly 18,000 people of color and around 11,000 people earning low incomes—will have a place to learn to swim, do water aerobics, or lap swim.

Concept illustration of the future North Portland Aquatic Center. It's a large community center-style building with grass on one part of the roof and solar panels on the other. There's a big grass field and a sizable parking lot next to the center.
Concept illustration of the future North Portland Aquatic Center at Northgate Park. - Rendering is courtesy of PP&R and ELS Architecture: For illustrative purposes only; the design will be refined as the project continues and the center will inevitably look different than in this rendering.

The planned North Portland Aquatic Center is one of Portland Parks & Recreation’s largest investments in the past 30 years. The significant funding allocation means that the center’s design process is moving forward, as are PP&R’s community engagement efforts. North Portland Aquatic Center will be a versatile, first-class facility for recreational swimming activities, competitive swimming, and a community centerpiece for current and future generations.

“A new, full-service aquatic center in North Portland is needed, and this funding means the finish line is in sight,” says Commissioner Ryan. “The location was selected because of its proximity to schools. It’s about ensuring our kids learn how to swim at a young age, and it will ultimately save lives.”

Park SDCs are one-time fees assessed on new development, not General Fund tax dollars. SDCs help ensure that, as the city grows in population, its quality of life keeps pace with its infrastructure needs. Current state law restricts that SDC resources can only be used for improvements that will expand the capacity of the parks and recreation system and cannot be used to fix or maintain current assets.

“The North Portland Aquatic Center will be accessible, spacious, and fun,” says PP&R Director Adena Long. “And most importantly, it will be an essential place to learn how to swim. I want to share my excitement and thank all neighbors and project advisory team members for their continued input and advocacy.”

After reviewing the community priorities and feedback from a robust community engagement process, Commissioner Ryan directed PP&R to build a 35-meter pool to better meet the increasing demand for lap lanes and ample space for school aquatics programming and other competitive swimming events.

“I am deeply excited for the new aquatic center and the opportunities it will bring to the North Portland community,” says Kay Griffin, physical education teacher at Sitton Elementary School and James John elementary schools in North Portland. “I have seen how the lack of accessibility, especially for historically underserved communities, negatively impacts students and their families. I believe that a community center should be able to be accessed locally, because those families are the ones that will be using it for the decades to come. I am also glad that Portlanders will be able to access important programs like swim lessons and water safety classes, since there are so many bodies of water in North Portland.”

Griffin is a member of the North Portland Aquatic Center Focus Group centering the LGBTQ2SIA+ community.

The North Portland Aquatic Center project has actively involved community members since March 2022. Throughout this process, community-driven site criteria have been and remain clear: 

  • Ensure accessibility, including for people who walk or wheel, and for people coming from dense, lower income neighborhoods
  • Ensure accessibility for people who use public transportation
  • Ensure the location is near community resources doing work with vulnerable populations (schools, community-based organizations, federally subsidized housing, community centers)
  • Minimize harmful neighborhood and ecological effects of the project

Next Steps and funding information

PP&R is anticipating having a new design team on board in the spring of 2024. The updated project schedule is expected after the project team is secured.

After the Northgate Park site was selected in summer 2023, PP&R updated the cost estimates for the aquatic center and refined the program size to the site parameters. Commissioner Ryan and PP&R will continue to work with community partners to explore options to completely fund the project, which is estimated to cost approximately $102 million. As of now, a total of $91.5 million in funding has been secured. In addition to the newly announced SDC revenue being allocated to the project, current funding also includes former Parks Commissioner Carmen Rubio’s combined allocation of $16.6 million in SDCs, and $15 million from a state grant spearheaded by Representative Travis Nelson and supported by Representative Maxine Dexter.

For more information on the North Portland Aquatic Center project, visit:  

In addition to the new North Portland Aquatic Center project, Commissioner Ryan has directed PP&R to initiate a community engagement process to determine new park improvements at Columbia Park and Columbia Park Annex. Commissioner Ryan will direct SDC resources to improve the park once Columbia Pool is removed.

There are laws and limitations on how various funding dollars can be spent in the parks and recreation system. For more information about PP&R funding, visit: