Monroeville pool staff, patrons reminisce during the pool’s probable last season | TribLIVE.com
Monroeville

Monroeville pool staff, patrons reminisce during the pool’s probable last season

Michael DiVittorio
1630897_web1_Te-BelAirepool1-091219
Lillian Dedomenic | For the Tribune-Review
Bruno, a 5-year-old collie, didn’t go near the water but cooled down with a refreshing drink from Doris Arruda.
1630897_web1_Te-BelAirepool4-091219
Lillian Dedomenic | For the Tribune-Review
Carmen, a 6-year-old yellow lab, enjoys playing ball with D.J. Zappa.
1630897_web1_Te-BelAirepool16-091219
Lillian Dedomenic | For the Tribune-Review
Ike, an 8-year-old bull terrier, plays in the water fountain in the baby pool. Ike came to the swim with Dawn Romano of Pitcairn.
1630897_web1_Te-BelAirepool17-091219
Lillian Dedomenic | For the Tribune-Review
doggie paddle A sure sign that summer is coming to an end is the annual doggie swim at Bel-Aire Pool in Monroeville. Dogs big and small brought their humans on Labor Day for the swim, closing out the 2019 summer season. Story, more photos, Page 2
1630897_web1_Te-BelAirepool18-091219
Lillian Dedomenic | For the Tribune-Review
Hazel, a 4-year-old German shepherd has a good time retrieving the tennis ball from the pool. Hazel came to doggie swim with Nick Davis of Monroeville.

Jenn Antonucci gazed into the blue, rippling waters of Bel-Aire Pool in Monroeville on Labor Day as members and guests splashed about with their pets.

It was the closing of the season, including the annual dog swim at the municipal-owned community recreation site.

“This is what I’ve known for 23 years,” said Antonucci, pool manager and Gateway Middle School teacher. “It hasn’t set in for me that it could potentially be the last year. So this is (still) happy for me. I love this part.”

Municipal officials are considering a $956,000 purchase offer from the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) to acquire the property for its widening project.

Council is expected to advertise an ordinance regarding the potential agreement this month, and could adopt it in October.

The 10-acre site, which has an assessed value of $996,000, includes a regulation-size swimming pool with a diving board, concession stand, full bathhouse and a baby pool. Shaded basketball courts and two sand volleyball courts are also on the property.

Municipal Manager Tim Little said if council does not approve the deal by the end of the year, the property could be reassessed.

The PTC widening project will extend from mileposts 57 to 67 and includes portions of Monroeville, Murrysville, Hempfield, Penn, North Huntingdon townships and Manor, Irwin and North Irwin boroughs.

Antonucci, 37, of Trafford said she’s hopeful to get one more season since nothing has been finalized yet.

“I don’t know what’s happening,” she said. “The uncertainty on both sides makes me hopeful for at least one more year. We know how to run a pool. We don’t know when the turnpike’s coming through.”

Ryan Tucek worked at the pool from 1997 through 2014. He served concessions, worked as a lifeguard and became a manager.

Tucek recalled a time a few years ago when a mechanical issue nearly caused the pool to close. His experience saved the day.

“There was a morning no one could get in,” he said. “The chlorine was off and I knew exactly what the problem was, so I changed the tank even though I wasn’t working here anymore. I fixed it real quick (and) they were ready to open that day.”

Tucek’s sons, Jordan, 8, and Zachary, 5, are on the swim team. Daughter, Victoria, 2, also enjoys the water.

“There’s not many public pools,” said Tucek, 37. “I live out in Penn Township now, and everyone has a pool in their backyard. You can see about 12 pools from my back deck. Everyone says, ‘You should get one.’ I say, ‘No.’ I come here and bring my kids here. We came home early just so we could be here (on Labor Day) just in case it is the last (swim). It’s sad.”

About 10,000 people use the pool from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

The dog swim started in the 1990s under the direction of Michele Ferrence, who served as pool manager from 1991 through 2003.

She has fond memories of Bel-Aire’s special events.

“We had great sand volleyball tournaments,” said Ferrence, 68, of Cranberry. “The Monroeville Marine fitness challenge will forever be important to me. We had dive-in movies. We had birthday parties. People could rent the pool. We had Battle of the Guard competitions.”

“Those special events brought even more people into the pool. My generation and my kids all grew up here. It’s kind of emotional for us. We were here every day. It’s difficult to say goodbye. All of those things make it what it is. I’ll say, ‘is.’ I don’t want to be past-tense here.”

The pool was dedicated in 1974 and is located in the municipality’s fourth ward.

D.J. Zappa, 56, of Monroeville was at the pool with Carmen, a 6-year-old yellow Labrador.

They’ve been coming to swim the past three years.

“A lot of people don’t have a place to take (dogs to swim),” Zappa said. “There’s always nice people here. We come here a few times, mostly just for the dog. If it would close, I would like to see Monroeville take the money and build a community pool centrally located for all the residents. It’s money they weren’t expecting.”

Many swimmers said they will have fond memories of the place.

“I honestly couldn’t be more sad that Bel-Aire is closing,” said Jessica Wagner of Murrysville, a Gateway graduate and former Bel-Aire Barracuda.

Wagner said most of her childhood and teenage memories involved the pool.

“I’m glad I was able to take my daughter for a couple years before it closed. I’m still proud to say my name’s still on the record board for the mixed ages butterfly relay. I’m glad I was able to take a picture of that before it’s gone, too,” Wagner said. “I know this pool was so special to so many people, and I’m definitely not the only one who is emotional about it closing.”

Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: Local | Monroeville
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.