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  1. Hillsborough

Their community swimming pools got filled with dirt. West Tampa and Seminole Heights want them back.

Tampa city councilman Guido Maniscalco wants to re-open some of Tampa’s shuttered pools so that families who cannot afford to join swim clubs or who do not have pools of their own have a place to swim. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
Tampa city councilman Guido Maniscalco wants to re-open some of Tampa’s shuttered pools so that families who cannot afford to join swim clubs or who do not have pools of their own have a place to swim. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]
Published May 30, 2019

In its heyday, the city-operated Baldomero Lopez Pool across the street from Macfarlane Park and West Tampa Little League was that community's hot spot to cool off.

On warm days, the key-shaped pool typically hit its occupancy limit of 80, especially when the Boys Club took field trips there, said Mike Baluja, who lived a block away.

On weekends, little leaguers strove to knock home runs into the water.

"It was our neighborhood pool," Baluja, 62, said.

It is now a neighborhood joke.

The clubhouse is there, as are signs listing pool rules or warning "No Trespassing When Pool Closed."

But the city permanently shuttered the pool in 2007 and filled it with dirt three years ago.

Today, it's a grassy area adorned with pool artifacts.

"What good is this?" said Tampa City Councilman Guido Maniscalco, who represents West Tampa. "It's a waste."

Reopening closed city pools is a focal point of the recently re-elected councilman's next four years.

The Baldomero Lopez Pool is on his list.

The other is the former Angus R. Goss Memorial Pool in Seminole Heights that was closed in 2009.

Neither community, Maniscalco said, is flush with backyard pools.

The only way many of those neighborhoods' kids or the elderly could swim regularly, he said, is with a community pool. Either they don't have rides to a pool outside their neighborhood or cannot afford to join a pricey swim club.

"It would be huge if we could open each," Maniscalco said while peering through the fence that once kept after-hours intruders out of the Baldomero Lopez Pool. "This neighborhood could be like the movie The Sandlot — baseball and swimming all summer. That is what summer is."

Chrissy Taylor, a member of the Angus R. Goss Memorial Pool Committee to resurrect that city facility, has a similar vision for her community.

Growing up in Henderson, Nev., she spent summer days at her community pool.

"My mom would drop me off when it opened and say she would pick me up at 5," Taylor said. "I would immediately start the countdown and complain, 'Oh, we only have six more hours of swimming.'"

Her twin 3-year-old sons swim, but in a flimsy plastic wading pool in her back yard.

A few years back, Taylor's organization conducted a neighborhood survey in Seminole Heights to gauge whether a community pool was needed. Of the 400 households that participated, 91 percent did not have a swimming pool, she said.

Still, last year, rather than reopening the pool, the city built the Angus Goss Dog Park on its former site.

"We have plenty of dog parks," Councilman Maniscalco said. "But not enough community pools."

Today, according to the City of Tampa's website, there are 12 public pool facilities plus the New Tampa YMCA doubles as one on select days.

Still, said Missy Martin, president of the Macfarlane Neighborhood Association, a "community pool" is accessible to "a community, and none of the pools are a safe walk or bike ride away for kids in our neighborhood."

The Macfarlane neighborhood has welcomed an influx of families in recent years, Martin added, but few have lots big enough to fit a pool — even if the parents could afford to build one.

"We've become this cool, hip neighborhood with young families taking their kids to the park," she said. "If we had a pool too, it would get a lot of use."

Taylor echoed that sentiment for her Seminole Heights neighborhood.

"Seven houses on my block alone have been bought by families in the last three years," she said. "None have pools. There has been a lot of focus in revitalizing downtown, but now let's focus on the neighborhoods like we used to."

Named in honor of a Hillsborough High School graduate who was killed in action while serving as a gunner for the U.S. Marines during World War II, the Angus R. Goss Memorial Pool opened on the corner of Central Avenue and Cuyaga Street in 1962.

A year later, the Baldomero Lopez Pool was christened at 3100 W. Spruce St. Lopez, also a graduate of Hillsborough and a Marine, was a first lieutenant who posthumously received the Medal of Honor for smothering a hand grenade with his body to save his fellow soldiers.

According to Tampa Bay Times archives, by the 1970s there were as many as 10 city pools, including Cuscaden in Ybor and the Sulphur Springs Pool.

Throughout the summer, the pools hosted free swim lessons for kids.

Some, like the 25-yard Angus R. Goss Memorial Pool, were used for meets by schools and swim clubs.

Then, around a decade ago, some city pools were closed when attendance dropped and city funds were depleted.

But Interbay, Roy Jenkins, Williams Park and Cuscaden each re-opened a few years later at a cost of $25,000, $2.5 million, $1.3 million and $3.1 million, respectively.

READ MORE: Four years and $1.3M later, Tampa's Williams Park Pool reopens

READ MORE: Tampa's historic Cuscaden pool expected to reopen by Memorial Day

READ MORE: Cuscaden pool reopens but council wants city to crack down on faulty contractors

The Angus R. Goss Memorial Pool Committee estimates theirs would take a little over $1 million to revive.

Councilman Maniscalco thinks the Baldomero Lopez Pool would be cheaper to re-open but has not yet sought an assessment.

"We need a pool," Macfarlane's Martin said. "A pool brings a community together. It builds a sense of community."

Contact Paul Guzzo at pguzzo@tampabay.com or follow @PGuzzoTimes.

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