YMCA Must Close Pool For Winter

By Keith Boles - bio | email feedback

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) -For nearly 20 years the pool at the Jonesboro YMCA has remained open all winter long.

But don't look for the inflated dome and steamy windows this year.

Economics has driven the costs out of reach. Extra money the Y just doesn't have.

Worth Gibson is not a fast swimmer but a faithful one. Every morning he takes his laps.

Gibson, "It's a healthy thing to do and I enjoy it."

Worth is just one of several swimmers that spend an hour or two each day at the Y pool. In a few weeks he will have to go elsewhere to swim. Gibson says he wasn't surprised about the closing.

"I know it costs a lot to keep the pool running during the winter months and I'm not all that surprised."

Gibson says for the winter he will go to the Trim Gym.

Bob Williams the Executive Director at the Y says it's just to expensive to heat the water and the air in the dome.

"From early October to late April in the 40 to 45 thousand dollar range just for the heating of the pool and the air itself."

One of the biggest expenses is the natural gas used to heat the water in the pool. The heating system for the water is old and not particularly efficient. One heater is around 20 years old and the other is around 5 years old.

Williams, "It takes a lot to heat the water up to appropriate pool temperature and then we're constantly losing water to evaporation."

With other expenses, the costs can run on the low end from 60 to 70 thousand dollars. And the light use of the pool doesn't even begin to cover those expenses.

Williams says he could keep the pool open but that it would put a huge drain on the other programs that the Y offers. He isn't ready to do that.

A large group that uses the pool in the winter is the Jonesboro Jets Swim Team. Coach Shawn Drake says they have had to move to the smaller pool at the Physical Fitness complex at ASU.

Drake, "We wish that we were there. We would really like to be with the YMCA. We've been there for years so it was a hard decision to leave the YMCA."

The Jets will have to travel to all meets this winter. They tried to rent the pool in Paragould for a meet but were turned down. They also don't get as much pool time using the ASU facility. They did try to help raise funds to keep the pool open but were unsuccessful.

Williams also said he has had several meetings with the city and other sources of income to try and get the pool taken over. Although the city seemed interested they said they didn't have the funding either.

But the winter doesn't last forever. Williams said they will begin to winterize the pool soon for a great Spring opening. Both the Jets and Gibson say they will be back when the weather warms up.

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