After serving the residents of Canonsburg and nearby communities for 77 years, Canonsburg's Town Park swimming pool is in need of repairs.
A plan to install a vinyl liner piece by piece in the 100-by-200-foot pool came with an estimated price tag of $135,000, a sum prohibited by the borough budget.
This comes on the heels of a $600,000 renovation to upgrade the pool's filtration system six years ago, an expenditure made possible by a matching grant from the local share of casino revenue.
"To help pay for the vinyl liner, borough council decided not to hire a new public works director for two years after the incumbent retired, which would have saved the borough $63,000 a year," said Terry Hazlett, borough manager. "The park department also decided to hold a series of fundraisers."
On Saturday, a Dine in the Pool fundraiser was the first attempt to save the cherished landmark. Organizers built a staircase into the pool where patrons sat on tables and chairs and were entertained by Mr. Hazlett, who served as the event's DJ. The nearby Texas Roadhouse donated 325 prime rib dinners and other area restaurants and caterers stepped up to the plate by donating appetizers and desserts.
"Ten or 15 minutes into the dance segment and it started to rain," Mr. Hazlett said.
The sprinkle of showers didn't dampen the spirits of the 325 people who paid $40 a ticket. During the evening, Bill Sarris, owner of Sarris Candy in Canonsburg, donated $100,000 to the campaign and another $25,000 came from the Velma Jeffries Youth Activities Fund. The fundraiser itself brought in $20,000 to $25,000 more, augmented by donations from people who couldn't attend the dinner.
According to Canonsburg mayor David Rhome, the pool is in desperate need of repairs. Without a tax increase, the community could not afford to make the renovations, and the pool was in danger of closing.
As a result of the generosity of community donors, plans are now being made to complete the vinyl liner installation by the end of the year.
The pool lies in the heart of the 52-acre Town Park just off VFW Drive and is made up of the large main swimming pool, a small pool, a bath house and a concession stand selling hot and cold foods.
Ten years ago, attendance averaged 200 to 300 swimmers a day, and administrators implemented several changes to boost attendance. These included adding comfortable lounge chairs, changing the look of the lifeguards and the style of music played at the pool and altering some of the items sold at the concession stand.
"In the last five years attendance in June and July has jumped to between 500 and 600 people a day," Mr. Hazlett said. "We get a lot of visitors from the surrounding communities such as Washington, Peters, Cecil, Houston and North Strabane, and on a daily basis we get a lot of grandparents who come in with their grandchildren."
Unlike many other community pools, the pool breaks even or even makes a little money each season. Administrators invite youngsters from area camps, and the pool's own camp, Splash, brings in 40 to 50 young swimmers a week.
One successful addition to the pool's event schedule is Dive-in Nights on Wednesday, which features live bands and occasional film screenings from 7 to 9 p.m.
"We haven't raised our prices of $6 a day and $50 for a season pass or $45 for seniors and children under 12 for a number of years," Mr. Hazlett said. "We even eliminated the extra premium charge for residents living outside Canonsburg."
Much of the pool's original 1934 financing came by way of President Roosevelt's Work Recovery Act agencies. Interestingly, the original plan called for the pool to be filled with salt water from an old oil well drilled around the turn of the 20th century.
The plan was scuttled when a cable that held the drilling equipment snapped during the drilling operation, and administrators decided to implement the alternate option of using fresh water to fill the pool.
The 650,000-gallon pool opened on July 4, 1935, with 700 people splashing in the still-cold water, while another thousand or so watched from the surrounding hills. On opening day, admission was 25 cents for adults, 10 cents for children.
In the ensuing years, the pool has become the pride of the Town Park and one of the town's points of interest.
"Like many small towns, Canonsburg doesn't have that many things for young and old to do," said Denny D'Orazio, president of Canonsburg's parks and recreation board. "But we do have a wonderful swimming pool, and the enthusiasm for our recent fundraiser to save it was on a very high level, much like at a sporting event.
"When Bill Sarris announced his $100,000 contribution, people jumped up with excitement and clapped and cheered for 10 full minutes."
A full history of Canonsburg's Town Park Pool can be read online at canonsburgboro.com.neigh_south - neigh_washington
Dave Zuchowski, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.