Fond farewell and splashing celebration

Children, staff and city officials bid farewell to pool, celebrate start of renovation project at Bridesburg Rec

Councilman Bobby Henon and Kathryn Ott Lovell, Parks and Recreation commissioner, joined after-school program children from the Bridesburg Rec and Sophie Heck in the official groundbreaking ceremony for the new pool. MELISSA KOMAR / STAR PHOTO

By Melissa Komar

Despite temperatures near freezing and a smattering of snow scattered around the deck in the basin, dozens of children congregated on the concrete bleachers at Bridesburg Recreation Center pool.

On Friday, March 9, city officials and the staff at the neighborhood landmark held a “goodbye” party and groundbreaking ceremony complete with a pizza party to kickoff the construction project which will see a complete overhaul of the 68-year-old pool.

The total cost is approximately $3 million and will include taking down all the brick walls surrounding the pool; creating a new building for the staff and the electrical system; installing new lighting, electric and plumbing; building a new bathroom; and bringing the pool to ground level, making it ADA-accessible, according to Francesco Cerrai, project manager.

The renovation project will require the pool to remain closed this summer, and the project is anticipated to be complete in the fall.

The 68-year-old pool at Bridesburg Recreation Center will be completely renovated and reopen in summer 2019. MELISSA KOMAR / STAR PHOTO

John McBride, supervisor at the rec, served as the emcee for the event, pumping up the after-school and summer camp children in the audience and introducing speakers.

“For the last time, we welcome you to the deck of the original Bridesburg pool,” said McBride commencing the ceremony. “Today we celebrate many memories, many accomplishments that have happened here, many friendships built, careers started, and, as we say goodbye to this pool we also say ‘hello,’ because we have a special groundbreaking ceremony for the new pool. Today is about you because you’re getting a new pool and will continue to serve generations to come in a community that keeps going strong.”

John McBride addresses the crowd of children chanting “Mr. John” as Councilman Bobby Henon chants along. MELISSA KOMAR / STAR PHOTO

Sophie Heck, 18, a three-year lifeguard addressed the crowd, asking the children to repeat the pool rules with her, which included no diving, no flipping, no roughhousing, no swimming in the deep end without asking a lifeguard and wait for the whistle to swim.

“I consider this rec center my second home. I’ve been coming here since I was 4 years old,” Heck said. “The people who I got to know and love here have made me who I am today and I am forever thankful for that. I made so many great memories and I’ve watched so many kids develop, not only their swimming skills, but grow as people and it was an honor to help them to achieve what they strived for in and out of this pool. I’m going to miss the old pool, but I’m excited to make memories in the new pool.”

Councilman Bobby Henon, who lobbied for the renovations and committed councilmanic funds toward the project, engaged the kids, asking them what they should have at pool parties, to which they all shouted, “Fun!”

“This would not be possible without the Bridesburg community, without all of you,” he said. “Are you allowed to do cannonballs in the pool? Because when it’s open, I’m going to do a cannonball. And, we had great memories at this pool and we’re going to have many more.”

Kathryn Ott Lovell, Parks & Recreation commissioner, addressed the crowd prior to the ceremonial throwing of dirt into the pool.

“Do you guys feel hot today? Is it a good swimming day?,” she jokingly asked the children. “No, today is an awful swimming day, but before we know it, the weather is going to turn and you’re going to be in this new pool and it’s going to be really awesome.”

The ceremony wrapped up with Henon, the children and lifeguards using shovels to throw dirt in the pool.

And, a pizza party.