FLORENCE, Ky. (WKRC) – As pool season is right around the corner, one local pool is already making the decision to not open for the summer.
For the second year in a row, the Florence Aquatic Center will not open in 2021, citing the pandemic.
For kids like Sophialyn Wolfe, swimming in the pool at the Florence Aquatic Center is everything.
“It’s home basically,” Sophialyn said.
The summer means training time.
“We swim competitively all year, so we get to experience swimming all year but there’s a lot of kids who do not have that opportunity, and they can’t afford that opportunity,” Carolyn Wolfe, Sophialyn’s mom, said. “The Aquatic Center makes it affordable so these kids that want to participate in this — it’s a team sport — have that opportunity. So to take that opportunity away from the community, it does a disservice to those kids that need this in their life.”
Chris Kemper has three kids on the Florence Hammerheads swim team.
“The Florence Hammerheads are a championship swim team. They’ve won eight of their last 10 championships in the Northern Kentucky Swim League, so we are at the high level in we compete every year and to not have that in the second year in a row is a really tough pill to swallow,” Kemper said.
“I understood from a public health perspective why they decided to not open last year. I could appreciate that, and we actually talked about that last April, even though other pools did, I understood where they were coming from,” Kemper said. “But to announce this year on March 12 that they’re not opening just doesn’t seem like it’s coming from a place of being in the best interest of the people of Florence.”
On the City of Florence website the announcement reads:
“Following discussion with Florence City Council and per recommendation of City staff, the decision was made that the Florence Aquatic Center will not open for the 2021 pool season.
The city’s contractual obligations with the company that manages pool services, including the staffing of life guards and general operations, requires us to make a decision now. Recreational facilities are currently advised to limit their capacity to 60% occupancy.
Due to the uncertainty with restrictions and the potential of a shortened pool season if cases start to spike, the City made the tough decision not to open this summer.
We are disappointed and I am sure many of you are as well. We appreciate your understanding and look forward to a better experience and a restriction free year in 2022.”
“It really is too many unknowns still, and I understand that people are anxious because the vaccines are out there and the people are getting vaccinated, but not everybody is and not everybody chooses to,” Mayor Diane Whalen said. “Our pool season is very short, and with Memorial Day actually being on the 31st of May, that gives us the month of June and the month of July. We have always closed when school started in August because at that point we lose our lifeguards and our employees and truly the numbers were never high enough to keep it open once school went back in. It’s already a very short pool season. There would be no logic to making it shorter by opening it later.”
Local 12 asked why the facility couldn’t open with COVID-19 precautions like other swimming pools did last summer?
“I think it’s just a matter of taking into account the reduction, the 60% capacity issue that they’re telling us we need to follow as well as 6-foot spacing and enforcing that,” Whalen said. “I think the unknown of the variants, the unknown of a potential surge following spring break as people start to relax the restrictions, and it kind of comes down to what happens then? To fully open the pool, to fully staff the pool and then be told that we need to reduce the numbers or potentially close is nothing we want to have to do.”
Parents and swimmers are hopeful the city will reconsider its decision.
“I can only say I’m sorry that it’s not going to work out this year,” Whalen said. “I understand their disappointment and frustration, but this is bigger than one swim team.”
Whalen says the annual Florence Memorial Day Parade will also be canceled in 2021.