HomeNewsAt last, the Swimmo will come back to life

At last, the Swimmo will come back to life

The Swimmo initially closed its doors two years ago because of plumbing issues.

Lederer Pool, AKA The Swimmo.

On a rainy Monday afternoon, city officials and community stakeholders — including children, lots and lots of children — gathered outside the Fishtown Recreation Center for the announcement of the city’s plans to rebuild the rec center’s park, including the beloved Lederer Pool, which is more commonly referred to by Fishtowners as the “Swimmo.”

The Swimmo initially closed its doors two years ago because of plumbing issues.

“Thanks to Rebuild, this summer, the city will begin demolition and reconstruction of the Swimmo,” said Mayor Jim Kenney at the event, as the crowd of easily over 150 people roared. “We want our children to continue to have the same experiences that we had growing up and kept us all together and stable. It gave our parents some place to trust and be safe, and I want [these kids] to have the same experience that we have so when they’re parents, they can continue this tradition on.”

“Thanks to Rebuild, this summer, the city will begin demolition and reconstruction of the Swimmo,” said Mayor Jim Kenney at the event.

Rebuild is a citywide initiative to rebuild parks and community centers in the city. Currently, according to parks and rec commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell, there are already 30 active Rebuild projects the organization is putting $100 million toward funding, and the Fishtown project is one of them.

The playground portion of the renovation project (which does not include the pool) will include new swings, more shaded seating, a new basketball court, a multipurpose jogging and walking track, a new climber with slides, a toddler playground, a sprayground and a “community common.” The total cost of the playground portion will be approximately $1.2 million, and funding will come from Council President Darrell Clarke’s capital budget, the Trust for Public Land, the city Department of Parks and Recreation, the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and Rebuild. Playground construction is currently underway and will be finished by July.

“The reconstruction of the pool and improvements to the hockey rink will be funded entirely through Rebuild.” Maita Soukup, spokeswoman for Rebuild and the parks and recreation department, said in an email. She noted that the total cost of these two projects “is expected to be millions of dollars,” and Rebuild will likely expect to know the exact costs “in the coming months.”

“The pool work will begin after community engagement on design — likely this summer,” said Soukup. “The hope is that the pool is ready by next summer, but realistically it is a complete reconstruction, so could take until summer 2021.”

Additionally, DCNR committed $250,000 toward the project, according to the organization’s regional adviser, Jean Lynch.

“Funding for this project certainly came from the city of Philadelphia,” said Lovell at the event. “It came from city capital, from the Rebuild initiative, from the Council president’s allocation of capital dollars, but this would not be possible without critical resources from the state. Each year, we apply to the [DCNR] for projects like this and then we cross our fingers and we pray really hard that these grants get awarded and this one did.”

In addition to Rebuild, Kenney said neighbors have the soda tax to thank for helping bring back the Swimmo.

“I know some people may not be happy [about this], but it’s a direct result of the beverage tax,” he said. “Thanks to the beverage tax, rec centers like this will receive the investment they so desperately need, but that has been denied for far too long.”

According to Lovell, Philadelphia has more public pools and recreation centers than any other city in the country.

“This is absolutely critical to our way of life here as Philadelphians,” Lovell said. “When pool season opens, getting that list of when the pools are going to open is like the hottest thing in the city.”

“The Fishtown Neighbors Association is happy to see that the Swimmo reconstruction is now moving forward after being closed for two years,” FNA President Joseph G. Kain, Jr. said in a statement. “This will be a long-awaited return of a neighborhood tradition that has been unused for too long. The new Swimmo will be much improved from existing facilities and provide greater accessibility for the neighborhood. FNA extends its gratitude to Council President Clarke for putting Fishtown at the top of the list for rebuild. The new pool will have better accessibility and be brought down to street level improving its integration into the neighborhood. Once work is completed, Fishtown will be that much better for it.”

Mary Anne Tempone, president of the Fishtown Advisory Council, echoed Lovell’s excitement for the project. She thanked numerous supporters of the project, including the recreation center’s leader, Eric Rudy.

“I think for old Fishtowners and new Fishtowners, the rec is the great unifier. It’s where everybody comes,” she said. “I think the kids in Fishtown are wonderful and will have a great, happy childhood no matter what, but I am also happy to say that with this money we can make the facility and the grounds here worthy of the kids who play here.”

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