Dozens of people gather outside the Sayre Morris Leisure Center to open an unused Olympic swimming pool

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) — A rally to open an unused Olympic-size swimming pool inside the Sayre Morris Recreation Center drew dozens of people to the Cobbs Creek neighborhood of Philadelphia on Tuesday night.

Residents gathered outside on the sidewalk with empty kiddie pools that had no water to send the message that neighborhood kids have nowhere to swim.

“Violence is at an all-time high. Our children have nothing to do. Our community, our seniors have no place to go, and it’s free. We pay taxes for these buildings,” he said. said Kirsten Britt, who organizes the rally.
The pool has stood empty and unused since 2017.

“In general, we need to have pools open in our neighborhoods, especially in neighborhoods struggling with gun violence,” council member Jamie Gauthier said. The swimming pool is in its neighborhood.

Gauthier tried several approaches to solve the funding problem.

“The community and I brought this to a school board vote in February, they voted it down,” Gauthier said.

A $10 million resolution was on the table for the pool, but Gauthier said $4 million would fix the pool and get it up and running. During budget negotiations, she also attempted to secure this funding in the city’s fiscal year 2023 budget.

Elders say they also feel cheated. Larry Brown ran water aerobics here for years. “People see me and are like what’s going on?” he said.

Cheryl Akbar was part of his class.

“I was here faithfully on Tuesday and Thursday. I was in a class, we had over 60 people in this pool,” Akbar said.

As well as a place for recreation, organizers say more pools are needed to teach children to swim, which could contribute to the continued shortage of lifeguards.

By Memorial Day week, the city of Philadelphia had only filled 100 lifeguard positions, meaning only 40% of pools could open this summer.

“You can’t just wake up today and say I want to be a lifeguard, you have to know how to swim. You have to be certified and trained – that’s the message we want the city to see,” Britt said.

Maita Soukup, director of communications for Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, released this statement to Action News:

“The community has waited too long for the Sayre-Morris Indoor Pool to be repaired. It is a vital community resource that we cannot continue to leave in a state of disrepair.

Each summer, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation must recruit between 350 and 400 lifeguards and the same number of pool maintenance workers to staff our more than 60 outdoor pools. By the hiring deadline of June 3, we had identified 80% of the required personnel. The pool opening schedule is being worked on, depending on which pools have staff to open safely. We plan to publish the schedule next week.

If the impact of the national lifeguard shortage prevents all pools from reopening this year, we will strive to open as many pools as possible and make the decision on which pools will open based on: available staff, geography, neighborhood needs, old pool usage data, and other nearby cooling options (like spray and splash zones). Some parts of the city have a much higher number/concentration of swimming pools. In neighborhoods with multiple pools, PPR will seek to open the largest or busiest pool in the neighborhood, in order to serve the most residents. »

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