(Editor’s Note: This feature on Gingrich Memorial Pool pool first appeared on Lebanon Sports Buzz in 2015. It was announced recently that the pool will not open for the 2018 swimming season.)
BY JEFF FALK
LEBANON – It’s easy-on-the-wallet pricing.
Its diversified clientele.
Its design and configuration.
Its storied past.
Gingrich Memorial Pool. Coleman Park Pool. Lauther Memorial Water Park.
Call it what you want. But by any name, it is Lebanon County’s most unique community pool.
Not only is Gingrich Memorial Pool the locale’s only above-ground community swimming hole, it is Lebanon County’s oldest public pool. And while it continues to evolve to meet the ever-changing needs of the city of Lebanon’s multi-cultural north-siders, it may be the pricing that keeps the active crowd coming back for more.
At six bucks for adults and four dollars for children, Lauther Wather Park ain’t cheap. But it is Lebanon County’s least expensive pool.
“A lot of our daily customers attend on a regular basis,” said Deb Gates, who oversees the Coleman Park Pool as part of her duties as the city’s Director of Administration. “We do sell pool (season) passes, but not as many as we used to. I’m not sure what to attribute that to. But we are trying to keep costs down. We had a rate increase two years ago. We want to be competitive. The last I checked, we were the lowest in the county.
“Most people who grew up in Lebanon refer to it as Coleman Park Pool,” Gates continued. “I think for some who go there, it’s a matter of nostalgia. For those of us who were born and raised in the area, we remember going there as kids. There’s just a need for public recreation in the city, and the pool fulfills that need.”
Built in 1940, Gingrich Memorial Pool, located off route 72 and nestled in picturesque Coleman Memorial Park, in the city’s most north-west corridor, is on the eve of its 75th anniversary. Over those years, almost half-a-million local residents have visited the pool.
“It was built as a memorial to Dr. Gingrich and his wife Anna,” said Gates, who doubles as the facility’s unofficial historian. “In his will, he recognized the need for wholesome recreation. He also requested the pool be used as a skating pond in the winter. The pool’s design was really unique for the time, it’s shape is named an ‘ovoid’.
“It’s basically a building filled with water,” continued Gates. “He contended the building of an above-groud pool was less expensive than an in-ground pool. He died in 1924 and the pool was finished in 1940, but I’m not sure why it took so long to open. Admission then was 25 cents for adults and ten cents for children. But for a pool that old to be still standing, it’s amazing. People can not believe we’ve had the same pool for 74 years.”
By all accounts, Coleman Park Pool is doing more than simply ‘treading water’. It is managing to keep it’s ‘head above water’.
Despite a shortened season – from Memorial Day to the middle of August – Lauther Memorial Water Park attracts 10,000 customers/swimmers a year, a total that rivals any community pool in Lebanon County.
“I am pleased,” said Gates. “Everybody would love to have more swimmers. We do operate the pool at a loss. We have the pool, and we recognize the need to provide recreation for our residents.
“The numbers are pretty consistent from year to year,” added Gates. “Weather obviously has an effect on that, but it’s a positive thing. This year June was a little slow because of the weather. But we had an absolute blow-out on Memorial Day. Our high day used to be the Fourth of July, but the past couple of years we’ve had more people on Memorial Day. I think it’s most city residents who go to the pool, but we know people come from out of the area. We have seen some transition with other pools closing. But it fits a real recreation need here locally.”
The Lauther Water Complex, which is handicapped accessible, features a wildly popular 176-foot water slide, with over 100 feet of enclosed tubing, a splash area and three separate bathing areas to accommodate all levels of swimmers. It’s as much fun as allowed by law.
“It’s basically swim, swim, swim,” said Gates. “The kids love the slide. People picnic in the park, and come to the pool. Our goal is to provide wholesome recreation for our residents. It’s very gratifying to see that, when people are at the pool, they still love it.
“Swimming is very good exercise,” Gates continued. “It’s very important. It offers children an opportunity to get away from their X-boxes, and to get some physical exercise. Swimming is excellent exercise.”
Gingrich Memorial Pool has been renovated twice over the last 30 years. First in 1986, and then again in 2000.
“Some of the local pools have closed, for various reasons,” Gates said. “I don’t know that there’s as much embracing of the community pool as there was. There’s other things for kids to do over the summer. I think it’s (the community pool) viewed a little differently than in the past. But that mindset is still there in Lebanon.
“The building is an older structure,” Gates added. “In the short term, we’re committed to maintaining the pool and keeping it in operation. In the long term, the city might need to seek a grant for the pool. But I feel fortunate that we can continue to operate and offer this form of recreation to our citizens.”
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