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Thanks to Zephyrhills Police Athletic League, Hercules Aquatic Center reopens

ZEPHYRHILLS — Through the herculean efforts of the Zephyrhills Police Athletic League, the Hercules Aquatic Center is open.

The league, which has been around since 1978, signed a contract to take over the pool's operations earlier this year. The county will provide any major repairs over $2,500 if money is available.

"It just makes me happy to see people smile," said Mark LaMonte, president of the Zephyrhills Police Athletic League. "A lot of people are dependent on this."

LaMonte began thinking of taking over the pool at 38110 County Road 54 when he was at a City Council meeting in November and heard county budget cuts had forced it to close.

"I thought, 'You've got to be kidding me,' " he recalled.

He made calls to County Commissioner Jack Mariano and county parks director Rick Buckman, but the county was talking with the YMCA at the time.

However, talks with the Y fell through and the league presented a plan.

"They had a really good business plan," county parks manager Brian Taylor said.

The league got some help from the city of Zephyrhills, which donated 279,000 gallons of water to refill the pool.

It also has 16 volunteers to perform maintenance work. The league also was able to rehire staffers who used to work there.

"With some promotion, extended hours, our staff would be able to keep the hours open later and make it more convenient and the pool would be profitable," LaMonte said. Prices have been kept at the same levels as last year, with adult daily admission at $3, and $2 for kids older than 2. Summer passes also are available.

Proof of support for the pool came when it opened Memorial Day weekend. The pool, which has a capacity of 152 people, actually reached it a few times.

"I'm glad they opened it back up," said Carol Lott of Dade City, who brought three of her grandchildren to the pool Monday.

Activities have included a dive-in movie night, swim lessons and water aerobics. The agency also will partner with Zephyrhills High School, which will continue to make the pool the training center for its swim team. The league plans to have its own league to be used as a feeder team for the high school, LaMonte said.

The league, best known for its football and cheerleading programs, is making an effort to broaden its reach.

It is opening a youth center later this month that will offer a summer program with lunch and snacks. This fall, it will offer an after-school program. Chancey Road Christian Church donated a bus, which the organization will use to transport kids from school.

Not so fortunate are the folks who live on the county's west side. Grove Park's swimming pool in New Port Richey is closed.

Taylor said county pools in Land O'Lakes and Hudson were able to stay open because they were part of bigger recreation centers with sports fields, while the two that closed were standalone pools.

"It's far more challenging to keep a standalone facility open," he said. However, if a private group steps forward, "we're willing to talk."

Keri Wiginton contributed to this report.

Fast facts

For more information on PAL programs

Visit www.zpal.org for information about the Hercules Aquatic Center and other programs sponsored by the Zephyrhills Police Athletic League.

Thanks to Zephyrhills Police Athletic League, Hercules Aquatic Center reopens 06/01/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2010 9:38pm]

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