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Wednesday, Apr 25, 2018
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Finding the right fix for Cuscaden pool

Tampa’s historic Cuscaden Park pool is filled with nothing more than fond memories these days as the City Council considers the best options for saving at least part of the 76-year-old structure.

The above-ground pool was drained several years ago after nearly $3 million in renovations failed to keep it from leaking. Council members wanted Mayor Bob Buckhorn to find $1.5 million to make fixes and get the pool reopened.

But inspectors delivered some bad news after touring the facility. Even spending that much on repairs won’t eliminate the need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in future maintenance costs. Additionally, there’s a chance that filling the pool after sitting empty for so many years will cause the foundation to shift, causing more damage. The request for $1.5 million was denied, and rightly so.

That’s bitter news for the neighborhoods served by the pool and for generations of Tampa residents who grew up swimming at Cuscaden pool. It also leaves few options, none of them cheap.

One of them, to replace the facility with an in-ground Olympic-size pool, is worth exploring. Council members asked for a report next month on the feasibility of that happening. Buckhorn is also interested that scenario. As he points out, it might finally give Tampa a first-class facility for hosting swim meets. We hope the cost is reasonable and that workers can reconstruct the existing facade, which is part of Tampa’s heritage.

The pool was built during the Great Depression as part of the federal work program created by President Franklin Roosevelt. It was named for Arthur W. Cuscaden, a Tampa pioneer who served on the City Council and the School Board.

The two-story brick structure has lockers and classrooms on the first floor, and a deck surrounding the pool.

But that unusual design is part of the problem. The pipes leak, and no drainage was built around the facility’s outer walls. When heavy rains fell, the overflow collected on the deck and leaked into the rooms below. Draining the pool has left the bowl to bake in the sun, causing more damage.

Council member Frank Reddick, who represents the neighborhoods north of Ybor City where the pool is located, understands the realities of attempting to fix the facility. He showed photographs to council members that show the spread of cracks and mold.

Fixing Cuscaden pool has bedeviled the city for decades. Throwing more money at the problem would be foolish.

The city should pursue an in-ground pool that retains the facility’s historic look, gives residents a much-needed place to swim, and provides the city with a showcase to attract competitive swim meets.

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