DAVIS ISLANDS — Six years after unsafe conditions caused the Roy Jenkins Pool to be drained and locked up, a $2.5 million renovation is about to make a big splash on Davis Islands.
On Aug. 22, swimmers and sunbathers will find two sparkling new pools, one with five swim lanes extending 75 feet, the other kiddie-sized with colorful, interactive features and a sloped entry.
An elevator and wheelchair lifts, along with refurbished restrooms and showers, bring the 85-year-old building at 154 Columbia Drive, opposite the Marjorie Park Yacht Basin, into compliance with federal accessibility laws.
Only the walls remain of one of Davis Islands' original amenities, built for $75,000 in 1929 as part of the community's grand design. What was a two-deck layout, with steps between the pool and bleachers, is now a single level.
"Getting it back online is herculean," said Greg Bayor, Tampa's parks and recreation director. "It's quite a saving of history."
Most outdoor aquatics facilities have a 20- to 30-year lifespan, he noted.
"This far exceeded that," Bayor said, reeling off plumbing, ventilation, drainage, fire and accessibility problems that were addressed.
Two other city pools were also closed in 2008 for not meeting a new federal antidrowning law requiring drain covers. Interbay Pool in Culbreath Heights reopened in July 2011 after about $25,000 in repairs. Williams Park Pool in East Tampa reopened in July 2013 after a $1.3 million renovation.
Mayor Bob Buckhorn will officiate an Aug. 22 ribbon cutting to reopen Jenkins Pool. Its hours will be 5:30 to 9:30 a.m. weekdays, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday through Oct. 31. Jenkins and other seasonal pools reopen on Memorial Day weekend.
Access requires an annual Rec Card, which is $15 for city residents and $30 for nonresidents. On Aug. 23, the city will co-host an open house and ice cream social from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
"We made it fun, functional and (handicapped) accessible," Bayor said.
Pillar Construction Group and FleischmanGarcia architects created a new, shaded entrance that opens to air-conditioned offices for a receptionist and lifeguards. A new pool was poured in the existing shell on the second floor, and a new filtration and operating system, textured cement decking, lighting and landscaping were installed.
Maintaining the exterior facade, the original steps topped by concrete cupids and much of the lobby earned the city's architectural review board's blessing.
The renovation was paid for with community improvement tax money and $500,000 from the Davis Islands Park Improvement Fund. The park improvement money came from the $1 million received in 2005 from Tampa General Hospital to appease residents when the city leased nearly a half-acre of waterfront property for a hospital parking garage. The Davis Islands Civic Association raised another $11,000 from private donors, including $5,000 from the F.E. Lykes Foundation.
City art programs manager Robin Nigh oversaw a national competition for public art to enhance the vintage pool. Celso Gonzalez and Roberto Biaggi of Cero Design in Puerto Rico won the $25,000 commission with an Art Deco-style tile mosaic called Swimming With the Wind. The abstract design of a youthful female swimmer amid sun, sky and water covers the back of the elevator at the pool's south end.
So who was Roy E. Jenkins anyway?
The honorary director of the Greater Tampa Swimming Association was a devoted Red Cross safety instructor and officiated for many years at Tampa Invitational swim meets, according to History of Davis Islands by Rodney Kite Powell, curator at the Tampa Bay History Museum. In 1965, the Davis Islands Pool was renamed to memorialize his role in aquatic sports and safety.
"I hope that the civic association will continue to fundraise to add heaters so we can use this wonderful resource year-round," said Charner Reese, a Davis Islands resident since she was an infant. "We had swimming lessons in the morning and free play in the afternoon, with breaks to buy Nehi orange soda and jawbreakers at the concession stand."
Contact Amy Scherzer at [email protected] or (813) 226-3332. Follow @amy_scherzer.