Instead of choosing to cool off in the pool, 2 dozen students, children and community members stood outside Salt Lake Community College's South City Campus in high temperatures Monday, protesting the recent decision to close the swimming pool there.
"Be cool, don't close the pool," Samantha Unruh, 14, yelled at the passing cars while wearing a pair of swim goggles and a beach towel. She vowed she'd do anything to keep it open so she and her friends can keep swimming for just over $1 a day.
"We can't just do nothing," said Anita Hallman, who organized the rally. She said the decision to close the pool affects all types of people, including seniors who participate in water-aerobics courses, Scout groups who earn water-safety merit badges there and hundreds of students who take swim classes or train using the lap and dive pools at 1575 S. State.
"I just don't understand it. It's a great resource to the community; it's a great pool, and it's already here," Hallman said.
People in the crowd said the community wasn't given ample chance to come up with alternatives to closing the pool, which officials say is running at a $185,000 deficit to the school each year.
However, South High Alumni Association President Richard Taggart said the executive board was notified and opted to participate in a two-week study detailing repairs and expected maintenance, which was found to be "manageable" at $5 million or $6 million.
"The decision to close the pool was obviously not what we had hoped for," he said. Taggart hoped additional research of the situation might urge SLCC's administration to reconsider its decision.
"Based on the current economic conditions, the pool cannot continue to run on such a deficit," SLCC spokesman Joy Tlou said, adding that in order to make up for it, "membership charges would have to be sold at exorbitant costs."
"It was a difficult choice, but a choice we had to make," he said, referring to the decision made by the SLCC board of trustees during a February meeting. Tlou said there is no plan for the future of the building that houses the pool, or the land it is on.
Eighty-three-year-old Stirley Pulver said the pool has "kept me young." He and his wife took the fitness course for almost 12 years, and other pools in the area don't come close to offering the same thing, he said. A public swimming hole in Sugar House charges $4.50 for one day of swimming, but Pulver said he could get an entire semester of access at SLCC for $10.
SLCC obtained ownership of the pool along with the purchase of South High School. The pool was built in 1966 and "has long outlasted its 20-year life expectancy," Tlou said. The exact closing date is unknown, but it will be sometime in August.
Scott Cheney, who teaches various law courses at the college and uses the pool at least once each week, said just like other buildings on a state-owned campus, the pool belongs to the community and is seen as an asset in many ways.
"If the goal is to provide a college experience, this pool is every bit as valuable as the library, an art museum if we had one and the parking lot," Cheney said. He, along with others at the rally, "have faith that the administration will listen" and perhaps work together with the community to come up with a solution that will benefit everyone.
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