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Sylvan Park Pool, long-time manager celebrate 50-year history

| Monday, June 2, 2014, 1:26 a.m.
Dan Speicher | For Valley News Dispatch
Sylvan Park Pool manager John Masarik of Natrona Heights poses for a portrait at the beginning of the his - and the pool's - 50th season on Thursday May 29, 2014.
Dan Speicher | For Valley News
Sylvan Park Pool in Natrona Heights is prepared for the 2014 season - it's 50th - on Thrusday May 29, 2014.
Dan Speicher | For Valley News Dispatch
Sylvan Park Pool manager, John Masarik of Natrona Heights, poses for a portrait at the beginning of the his, and the pools 50th season open in Natrona Heights, on Thrusday May 29, 2014. Sylvan Park pool is a private pool owned by shareholders, and has opperated that way since it opened.

John Masarik has one piece of advice for you: Don't retire.

That's the rule he has lived by while managing Sylvan Park Pool in Harrison, which opened its gates for the 50th time this year during Memorial Day weekend.

Masarik has been there since the beginning.

“It's my devotion,” he said. “I love it.”

The pool will have a 50th anniversary celebration at 6 p.m. June 21 for former staff and board members to attend.

The day will be extra special for Masarik, who will also celebrate his 90th birthday during the event.

“I'm gonna get on the wagon here and celebrate with the rest of the people,” he said.

Masarik has seen three generations come through the pool. He enjoys interacting with the staff and learning from them, while teaching them a solid work ethic.

“They come with enthusiasm, and I personally feed on that,” he said. “I respect them for what they do.”

Assistant manager Gail Erickson, who has been planning the event, said Masarik will be honored during it.

“The pool has been open for 50 years and we've had over 500 employees who have come through,” she said. “This man has impacted all of us.”

Erickson said the pool is going through some changes to update the facility, but it is “still the same place.”

“Things are getting older, but we're renewing them,” she said.

Masarik said the most important thing for him is to keeping moving and stay active, which he does at the pool seven days a week. He plans to manage the pool as long as his health permits.

“If I can do for Sylvan what Sylvan is doing for me,” he said, “the scales are balanced.”

While this is a year to celebrate for Sylvan, times aren't always as joyous for it and other swimming pools in the Alle-Kiski Valley.

Apollo won't open

In fact, the pool at the Apollo Elks Club will not open this season as a result of financial difficulties, a spokeswoman said.

Many pool officials said last summer's weather led to a drop in attendance, and they are hoping for a better season this year.

“The weather was just not so great, and it did not really help us out,” said Rachael Watts, maintenance secretary at Sylvan. “We had to cut hours by one hour in the evening.”

Gary Montebell, director of Belmont Swimming Pool Complex in West Kittanning, had a similar experience.

“I've never closed the pool before, and last year, we closed five full days,” Montebell said.

He is hoping for better weather this year, with attendance down to about 14,000 people last year. That's down from 24,000 as recently as 2010.

Belmont pool will be open from noon to 6 p.m. June 7 and 8 and officially open for the season on June 11.

Montebell said some maintenance has been performed on the pool, including a new paint job.

“It was long overdue,” he said. “It looks a lot better.”

Lenny Collini said the winter took a toll on Vandergrift Pool. Collini said it was an uphill battle to have the pool ready to go on the Memorial Day weekend. Some tile had fallen off, and the pool's heater needed to be repaired.

Collini said the admission price had to go up by 50 cents this year to accommodate increased costs in pool maintenance.

“It's really hard because we have a heated pool,” he said. “We have a bigger cost than other pools.”

Boyce Park Wave Pool is offering a new feature this year regarding its season passes. The pool opened on Saturday. Kevin Evanto, spokesperson with Allegheny County, said the passes will now be valid on weekends, something that hasn't been offered before.

“That's a change that people have been requesting,” Evanto said. “That just makes it a lot easier on people.”

He said the pool fared pretty well in the winter and is ready to go for this season.

Leechburg Area Pool officials have been busy making improvements to the pool including a new pool filter and making it handicapped compliant with a wheelchair lift.

Although the repairs were costly, the rates have remained the same, said Michelle Ferretti, secretary of the pool board.

“In spite of all of the major expenses that we incurred in order to keep the facility up-to-date and in compliance,” she said, “we were still able to come out ‘in the good.' ”

Alameda Park Pool in Butler Township opened on May 31. Karen Halstead, administrative assistant for Alameda Park and Pool, said this will be the last year of the pool as it is.

“We're doing a major renovation as soon as the pool closes in August,” she said.

Halstead said cost of the renovation is estimated to be about $1 million. The entire pool will be redone.

Halstead and other pool officials have the same thought for this year.

“We're hoping for a nice hot summer,” she said.

Emily Balser is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-7710 or The Trib's Dave Williams contributed to this report.

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