Splash! We want to thank Becky Grigsby for scouting out Rankin Aquatic Center in Martinez. Becky is the Oakland mom to two, designer, crafter, runner, and blogger among other talents. Oh, and she made my Christmas ornaments this year. She gave us this report and pictures of her afternoon before and after the big bucket dumped on their heads.
I took my six-year-old son on a weekday, and we had a great time. I did some advance research and learned that the aquatic center and nearby Rankin Park and playground were renovated in 2011 and 2012 respectively. So this “new” pool has been open for awhile, but it was definitely new to us and in great condition.
The drive from Emeryville/Oakland took about 35 minutes each way – we took 580/80/4 there and then 4/680/24 back (Pro tip: consider traffic to determine which way to get there and back!). While I probably wouldn't go regularly due to the distance, it's definitely worth the drive once or twice a summer, especially for younger swimmers and/or if you've already been to all the other pools and swim parks in the East Bay.
If I lived in the extended East Bay I could definitely see making it a regular summer spot as they offer swim lessons, water aerobics, family nights Wednesday through Friday from 6 to 8 pm, and pool parties, in addition to recreational and lap swimming.
What to expect
The Rankin Aquatic Center includes a play structure with a “big yellow bucket” that dumps water every few minutes while it's on. Their system of turning it on and off was confusing but I did get the report from one lifeguard that they turn the bucket off 30 minutes prior to closing. Regardless, be aware that if you're in the “beach entry” pool where the play structure is located, chances are pretty good that you're going to get splashed!
That mega splash area connects to a maximum 3-foot depth pool, which was perfect for my 4+ foot 6-year-old who is a novice floater/doggy paddler. He was so comfortable in that pool that at one point I decided to sit on a bench and watch rather than get repeatedly splashed in the face. Two lifeguards were on duty in this combined area.
There's a fence separating this area from the other pool, which includes a 3 to 4 foot shallow end that connects to a deeper lap pool (they had one lap reserved for lap swimming only while we were there, which I thought would be great for parents to switch off and get a little exercise while the other parent watches the kid(s)).
There is also a “diving tank” with a diving board that we, for obvious reasons, did not try out. You can get a life vest for younger kids who want to float in the deeper pool but parents must still remain at arm's length. Needless to say, after about 15 to 20 minutes floating in the deeper pool, my son wanted to return to the shallower pool and play structure to enjoy his new-found independence!
What it costs
- CASH ONLY.
- 2 and under are free, youth 3-17 are $3, adults 18-54 are $5, and seniors 55+ are $3.
- One day family pass for $16, which is good for up to five people (with a maximum of three adults).
- Discounts available on 10 and 20 visit passes.
- Martinez residents can purchase “Measure H” passes for $54 for youth, $115 for adults, or $92 for seniors, good for recreational and lap swimming during the entire season.
Other logistics to know before you go:
- The pool has somewhat limited recreational swim hours, primarily open between 12-1pm and 4-5pm each afternoon (each day is a little different; check the Rankin Pool website for current hours)
- Day use lockers are available but you have to provide your own lock.
- Outside food and beverages appeared to be totally fine. There are several vending machines but no snack bar.
- Bathrooms were clean and there are curtains on the showers and changing stalls for swimmers who want a little privacy but space is limited. We had to wait a short time for the shower and changing stall, which are separate. On a busier day I would have simply toweled off and driven home.
- There isn't as much grassy area as, say, the water park in Fremont but enough benches and spots to sit for the weekday crowd.
- There is street parking around the aquatic center plus a small lot slightly up the hill toward the park.
I'll definitely try to return at least once this summer with the entire family to see how my toddler enjoys the “beach entry” pool and play structure.
Related: Take the Amtrak train to Martinez.
[All photos by Becky Grigsby, all rights reserved]