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Published: Thursday, 8/12/2004

Areawide: Bucking U.S. trend, swimming pools make splash in area

BY RACHEL ZINN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Youngsters enjoy the public pool in Archbold in Fulton County. Youngsters enjoy the public pool in Archbold in Fulton County.
DIANE HIRES / BLADE Enlarge

Swimming pools, new and old, are making a splash in area neighborhoods.

A national study shows that fewer Americans are swimming, but pools have remained popular recreation spots in the Toledo area.

"I think people around here stay loyal to their neighborhood pools," said Ray O'Lenic, programs director for the Sylvania Recreation Corp., which runs the public Plummer Pool in Sylvania. "We're filling up the deck on days that are hot."

Pool managers say that attendance varies widely based on the weather, but season-pass sales have been fairly consistent over the last few years. For example, memberships for the public pool at Cantrick Middle School in Monroe have been about the same for the last two years, and Plummer Pool has had between 1,109 and 1,270 season-pass holders for each of the last five years.

The newest aquatic attraction is in Maumee, where the Rolf Park pool opened in June. The $4.3 million pool, which includes water slides and diving boards, has had thousands of visitors so far, with about 30 percent coming from outside the city.

The pool's busiest day was Aug. 2, when 1,186 people went to the pool.

"We weren't sure what to expect. The attendance has probably been a little more than what our preliminary estimates were," said Joe Camp, Maumee's public service commissioner. "When you offer amenities such as slides and play parks, I think you're seeing attendance go up because it becomes a family activity."

Chris Buehrer, manager of the public swimming pool in Archbold, agreed that slides draw swimmers. The pool opened a water slide in 2002 after noticing a dip in memberships. In 2001, 96 families and 41 individuals bought season passes, and the next year, after the slide was added, 154 families and 90 individuals became members.

Walbridge also made improvements to its municipal pool in recent years. The village updated the pool's filtering system, renovated the bathrooms, and upgraded the heating system to make the pool water more comfortable.

"I personally think the pool has gotten better. It has more memberships and more activity," said Steve Smith, Walbridge street supervisor.

The swim scene is not so sunny everywhere in the country. Many older pools have closed, and surveys by the National Sporting Goods Association show a steady decline over the last decade in the number of Americans who swim. In 2003, 47 million Americans swam more than once, which is 19 percent less than the 58.2 million who swam more than once in 1998.

The city of Toledo has some older swimming pools that still draw crowds on hot days.

Toledo operates eight swimming pools with free admission and four larger pools that charge an entrance fee of 75 cents for children and $1.50 for anyone over 13.

Gary Kreft, the city's acting manager of recreation and facilities, said swimming pools are not the popular hangouts they were a few decades ago but attendance has remained steady at the Toledo pools for the last few years.

"Now kids have video games and computers. Kids have a lot more options than they did when I was growing up," Mr. Kreft said. "But when it gets hot, kids still want to go to the pool."

Sharon Mannion, aquatics manager at the National Recreation and Park Association, said swimming is still one of the most popular leisure activities in the nation. She said struggling swimming pools are having problems because of funding cuts, not dropping attendance.

Contact Rachel Zinn at

rzinn@theblade.com

or 419-410-5055



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