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Hicks pool to welcome swimmers this winter

For the first time in two decades, the Bobby Hicks Pool will stay open year-round.

Bess Melton, 72, won't have to rely on a walking machine to exercise her legs this winter.

Walter Koss, 61, will have the space in the city's only public Olympic-size pool to swim the mile and a quarter it takes to keep his bad back from hurting.

Heather Lammers, 28, won't have to find somewhere else to practice for the triathlon.

Every year when the pool closes in November, her fellow athletes look forward to the pool reopening in April. This year, she doesn't have to wait.

"I was pleasantly surprised," she said.

For years, the pool's regular swimmers lobbied the city Parks and Recreation Department to keep the pool open.

But because it costs about $15,000 per month to heat and $34,000 to keep insulated, the city has always closed it during the winter, sending swimmers to the indoor Conn Natatorium or the Interbay Pool.

Last year, the city closed the Conn Natatorium and the Interbay Pool got crowded.

"It wasn't the best situation for everybody involved," said parks and recreation spokeswoman Linda Carlo.

"Since we don't have the indoor facility, and the community has always wanted the Hicks open, we decided to see how it works."

This year will be a trial, Carlo said. Lifeguards are tallying attendance patterns to see when people use the pool most.

"I think it's going to work out fine," Carlo said. "But we will evaluate to see if we have to tweak hours next year."

Retiree Connie Smith is happy the pool just down the street from her home will remain open.

She likes it because it's clean, everyone is nice and she has her own lane to walk from one end to the other, to exercise her arthritic legs five times a week.

"I sure hope they're going to leave it open every year," Smith said. "Not just this year."

Alexandra Zayas can be reached at 226-3354 or azayas@sptimes.com.

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