Two of the pools listed here were “sold” to the PA Turnpike Commission, each for around $1M. Bel-Aire had been run by the Municipality of Monroeville for over 40 years. The land was purchased in 1975 and the pool was constructed in 1978. While they offered memberships, ran a swim team and swim lessons, like every other pool, they were also open to the public. Taxpayer funded, they did not rely on volunteers or membership dues to operate from year to year.
I was a lifeguard, swim instructor and swim team coach at Bel-Aire in the mid-90s. It was a fun place to be. Like the other pools in the area, we were thriving each summer. We had a solid membership base, supplemented with “daily-rate” admittance. These were my college years, and while I worked there in the summer, I took the opportunity to become a PA Certified Pool Operator as well as an American Red Cross Instructor for Lifeguarding, First-Aid and CPR. With an engineering mind, I loved learning the mechanics of swimming and the mechanics of pool operations. But with a kid-like heart and mind, I loved interacting with the people. I loved working with the kids. I learned how to “deal” with parents…though I loved most of them too. I made many long-lasting friendships during my time at this pool.
One can debate the decision to close and sell Bel-Aire. The pool operated at a deficit year after year. In 2010, the Municipality considered closing the pool in an effort to reduce the 2011 Budget. Ultimately, that plan was nixed. And in 2019, it’s final season of operations, Bel-Aire was budgeted to receive $52,100 in revenue and expected to have $87,240 in expenditures. [cited-source]
These figures closely align with GHC in 2019, with expenses exceeding $60K for the year revenue coming in as follows:
Oh by the way, you’ll notice that Bel-Aire’s expenses were much higher than GHC’s. As a public pool, Bel-Aire had additional mandates for ADA and other regulations from which as private pools built in the 1960s, Gateway Heights and the others were exempt (grandfathered). Plus, insurance policies are much more expensive for public pools (i.e. those that offer a “daily rate”) than membership-only organizations.
The other pool that was purchased by the PA Turnpike Commission was Plum Aqua. Honestly, I have no first-hand knowledge of the state of affairs at that pool during any part of their history, nor their financials. But through my observations and gut-feel, I believe they were right in-line with all the others. Basically, until recently, the cost to run a private, community pool in the eastern suburbs was about $60K per year, but that is ONLY if there were no repairs to the pump, filter, building, parking lot, etc. I swam there a few times and I coached (my teams) at meets held at that pool several times. It was a very nice facility, with friendly and welcoming people.
But, $1M today is not enough to build a new community pool. Perhaps an apartment-sized pool could be built for that price (I guess), but not one the size of either Bel-Aire or Plum Aqua.
These two pools were the most recent in history to close.
Good news for GHC…it does not appear that the PATC plans to expand through the Ramsey and Monroe Heights plans in the foreseeable future…so hopefully we will continue to dodge the "eminent domain" bullet.
The rest, unfortunately, hits a little closer to home…er, pool.
(See next entry).