Some big changes are on the way for one of the most iconic landmarks in Queens.
While Astoria Pool may be the busiest in the city, drawing more than 150,000 visitors last year, the diving pool nearby has not been used in some 30 years.
Now parks officials are set to turn the former diving pool it into an outdoor performance space, making the park more accessible to residents.
Queens Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. grew up around the corner from the pool and set aside about $1 million for the project.
"This is really going to add something. We've got so many artists in Astoria, and this is going to give them a place to perform right here at home," said Vallone.
"We're taking this diving pool that's been vacant for decades and creating a performance space. So what you'll see is the diving pool filled in, capped over and a nice spot where you can do performances for the public," said Queens Borough Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski.
Officials are also hoping to attract many community theaters, dance companies and musicians in an effort to bring a whole new crowd to the park.
"People are going to be exposed in a way that they've never been to performances. And even members of the community who aren't professional performers might find their way on stage. It could be concerts, dances," said Astoria Performing Arts Center Executive Director Taryn Sacramone. "It's really amazing what the future of this might be."
The Robert F. Kennedy-Triborough and Hells Gate Bridge will frame the space, and officials say the shape of the diving pool makes an amphitheater a natural fit.
"Actually the seating was there so you could watch people when the diving pool was in operation in the day," said Lewandowski. "So we're going to take down the smaller boards, leave the taller one as part of the pool's landmark status and then create this great space."
"What this is going to look like at sunset when the city lights up, what it's going to look like in the fall, in the summer. The fact that the backdrop is going to change over time, it's going to look like what theater was when it began," said Sacramone.
The project is still in the design phase, but the Parks Department will begin construction in 2012 and hopes to have the space open by 2013's swim season.