Pittsburgh swimming pools are ready to open

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It's been hot. And it's only going to get hotter.

The first day of summer might not be until June 20, but the unofficial start of summer kicked off Memorial Day weekend. The end of May brought the start of outdoor barbecues, the beginning of flip flop season and the opening of the summertime location that epitomizes the warm weather months -- the pool.

No matter how hot it gets -- and this weekend, temperatures neared the 90s in Pittsburgh -- the boys and girls of summer can find relief in the pool.

But at Pittsburgh's city pools, relief won't come until Thursday, the day after the school year ends for Pittsburgh Public Schools.

That's the way it's been for as long as Shelley Terlecki can remember, and she started her job as supervisor of the aquatics division of the city's Parks and Recreation Department 12 years ago.

"We always open the day after Pittsburgh Public Schools get out," she said, because many of their lifeguards and other staff members are college and high school students or teachers and staff for the city schools. The mid-June opening gives them time to finish their school responsibilities and complete lifeguard training for the summer, she said. They spend the first weeks of June in training, particularly on the weekends.

In the city's 18 outdoor public pools, there is water, but until Thursday, there won't be swimmers.

Some years, when temperatures in Pittsburgh are cooler, that's not a problem, but other years, late May can feel like early August.

The past three weeks have seen some rainy days here, but it got hot enough over the weekend to send someone running for a dip or, failing that, to another source of non-river water in the city.

The city's two spray parks -- one in Beechview and one in Troy Hill -- have been open since just before Memorial Day, and last weekend, Raven Davis, a Citiparks employee who supervises the Beechview park, said there must have been 90 kids taking advantage of the free water.

The waterfall steps near PNC Park on the North Side would normally be another option for warm-weather relief, but the steps are closed due to repairs until June 22, according to the website of the Sports & Exhibition Authority.

Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to submerge oneself in. In the weeks between the unofficial start of summer and the start of city pool season, what's a Pittsburgher to do?

Many Pittsburgh city residents have been stopping by the pool in Dormont, said April Ramsey, the assistant manager. The pool opened Memorial Day weekend, then kept only afternoon and evening hours on the weekdays through June 7, when Keystone Oaks High School ended classes. Many staff members are students there, Ms. Ramsey said.

The weekends have been crowded, but on Tuesday, with the forecast calling for afternoon storms, the pool was less than full. Ms. Ramsey planned to close it for the day at 2 p.m.

This week, some children cooled off in the water feature at PPG Place. On Tuesday morning, two sisters rode a float together down the new Dragon's Den ride at Sandcastle waterpark in West Homestead.

Noor Abdellatif, 22, and her sister Haya, 25, both students who live in Shadyside, said they'd been staying cool so far the past few weeks by eating Popsicles and sticking their heads in the freezer.

Visiting the water park, they said, worked better.

Sandcastle opened for Memorial Day weekend and the first weekend in June, then opened full-time for the summer on Saturday, said Damian Dondero, the pool's general manager.

They also open according to school year schedules, and for a weather-dependent activity like outdoor swimming and water rides, settling on that perfect opening date can be difficult, Mr. Dondero said.

"I think it's just a challenge in the water park industry as a whole," he said. "We are all hoping for hot sunny days and when we get them we are happy and when we don't we do our best to keep it open."

In the Pittsburgh region, the average temperature for May since 1871 has been 60.1 degrees, while the average temperature for the month of June is 68.4 degrees, said Rihaan Gangat, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Moon.

This year, the average temperature for the month of May was 67 degrees.

On Thursday -- opening day for Pittsburgh city pools -- it should be perfect pool-going weather.

"This coming Thursday should be really nice. Sunny, with a high around 80 degrees," Mr. Gangat said.

Ms. Terlecki said her staff is excited to get the pools open.

"It looks like it is going to be a warm summer, and we're excited about that as well," she said.

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This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To subscribe, go to http://old.post-gazette.com/trypress/ Kaitlynn Riely: kriely@post-gazette.com. Julia Rendleman: jrendleman@post-gazette.com.


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