Clubs welcome much-needed surge in pool memberships
In warm weather, a secluded swim club off Bower Hill Road in Scott becomes Joan Riggs' second home.
“It's the jewel of the South Hills,” Riggs said recently next to Bower Hill Swim Club's still-empty pool as club officials prepared the facility for the season opening on Memorial Day weekend. “Walking down the hill, you see the clean, glistening water, and oh — it's lovely.”
Yet, she worries. Membership numbers at many private swim clubs fell during hard economic times as families opted for less expensive public pools, where they pay for daily admittance rather than costlier seasonal membership dues. Families pay $550 a year at Bower Hill, after a $450 one-time bond is paid.
“I worry about it closing down,” Riggs said. “I wonder, why isn't this placed jammed?”
It might soon be.
Membership numbers are rebounding, private swim club officials in Western Pennsylvania said. The recession hurt, they said. Now, however, some clubs have waiting lists.
“We are at capacity, and we have a waiting list that is quite extensive,” said Chris Martin, a board member with Woodland Swim Club in Sewickley. “We're in a good spot. The pool is running well.”
Geoff Dutelle, manager at the Community Swim Club of O'Hara, said his club is close to capacity with 400 families, 63 seniors and a total of 1,700 members.
Dutelle and others said private clubs offer benefits over backyard and public pools.
“There is a sense of community,” Dutelle said. “There's a lot of legacy members, families who have been going to the swim club for five generations. They bring a lot of pride.”
Riggs can relate. She has been a member at Bower Hill Swim Club since its opening. This year is the club's 50th anniversary.
“Members are our biggest recruiters — that's probably what's kept us open all these years,” said Jeanie Hamm, a Bower Hill Swim Club board member. “And you learn something that's easy on your body and you can do forever.”
Pennsylvanians love to swim.
Statewide, there are 10,418 private and public pools, sixth most in the country, according to the National Swimming Pool Foundation in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Plus, there are 137,336 in-ground backyard pools in the state, seventh most in the country, and 211,862 above-ground backyard pools, eighth most in the country, according to the foundation's statistics.
But the number of in-ground backyard pools is dropping, down 4 percent in 2012 from 2011, the stats show.
Tom Knestaut, Buena Vista Volunteer Fire Co.'s trustee and pool committee chairman, said many people have grown weary of maintaining their own pool.
“Hopefully, that helps us out,” he said of the fire company's swimming pool.
Knestaut recently announced that the department received a $110,000 grant from the Redevelopment Authority of Allegheny County for pool upgrades. He hopes the improvements will draw more swimmers and help reverse a trend in which the department loses $7,000 to $19,000 a year managing the pool.
Buena Vista swimming pool is open to the public. But it feels like a private club with its intimate, family-oriented atmosphere, Knestaut said.
“This pool was originally built by volunteers in 1950; the history of it obviously is long and it's dear to a lot of us,” Knestaut said. “People in the community, their parents, aunts and uncles all worked on it. It keeps the small, hometown feeling going.”
Chris Togneri is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5632 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- West Penn to test ‘balloon pill’ in weight-loss trial
- Millions needed to replace at-risk natural gas pipes in Pennsylvania
- Experts say Pennsylvania Attorney General Kane dug her own hole
- Starkey: Vanilla Mike too polite on officiating
- $3.5M glass sculpture’s story begins, ends in rural community of Dunbar
- Chief of Pittsburgh Regional Alliance sets sights on growth in Southwestern Pennsylvania
- Alle-Kiski roundup: Freeport baseball team downs 1st-place Deer Lakes
- Rossi: Rutherford falling apart, too
- NFL Draft preview: Thin crop of offensive tackles available
- Cubs’ 3-run, 9th-inning rally upends Pirates
- Daily News roundup: Elizabeth Forward takes down Ringgold