TAMPA — Leonard Levy was a locker attendant and lifeguard at Roy Jenkins Pool in the 1940s.
He recalls diving into the water with other lifeguards to collect change dropped by soldiers from MacDill Field — now MacDill Air Force Base — who marched over to the Davis Islands pool to swim. Bleachers were erected along the sides of the rectangular pool for the many swim meets held there, he says.
Levy, 81, stood in a shady spot on the deck Saturday and watched as squealing children and their parents splashed in the newly-refurbished pool.
“It’s nice to see it open,” he said.
Six years after the almost 100-year-old Roy Jenkins Pool was closed because of safety concerns, the city celebrated its grand reopening this weekend with a free pool party.
“We’ve worked so hard as a community to reopen it, and today just really hit the pinnacle of our expectations and the support we have,” said Cristan Fadal, president of the Davis Islands Civic Association.
Roy Jenkins Pool was one of four aging, city-owned pools officials were forced to shut down for safety and public health issues.
Williams Park Pool in East Tampa was repaired and reopened last summer, while the Angus Goss Memorial Pool in Central Tampa is closed for good. After years of debate and doubt, city officials last month announced they will spend more than $2 million to renovate Cuscaden Pool in the V.M. Ybor neighborhood.
Davis Islands residents have worked for years to reopen Roy Jenkins Pool, at 154 Columbia Drive. In 2012, they voted to contribute $500,000 from the neighborhood’s recreation fund to the $2.25 million renovation project. They city is paying most of the cost.
Workers last summer began renovating the structure, which was built in 1928. Previously made up of three sections, the pool now is split into two: a large deep pool with lap lanes and a small pool with the “latest and greatest” splash features for children.
The work was slated to be completed in April, but construction delays pushed the opening back to this month. City officials will keep the pool open until Oct. 31. Beginning next year, it will be open every summer.
Better late than never, said Fadal, who was swimming with his children Saturday morning. “Our goal is to obviously make it a year-round pool,” he said.
The turnout for Saturday’s gathering at Roy Jenkins “far exceeded expectations,” said Louis Campanello of the city’s parks and recreation department. The deck was crowded with children and their parents who came to check out the newly-refurbished pool.
“We have a great venue for people to get out and around an aquatic environment and learn how to swim,” Campanello said. “It’s very exciting.”
Jerilyn Reed and her husband brought their 2-year-old daughter to swim in the kiddie pool.
The family used to live on Davis Islands, Reed said, but now they live in Hyde Park. They wanted to see the newly-refurbished Roy Jenkins Pool.
“For a free event on a Saturday when it’s so hot, this was perfect,” she said.