City seeks way to bail out historic Cuscaden Pool
Built during the Great Depression, Cuscaden Pool is a piece of Tampa’s history. But lately, it is more of a money pit.
In recent years, the city has poured millions into the 78-year-old above-ground center, yet it remains closed because of structural problems.
This morning, city parks chief Greg Bayor will report to the City Council on options Tampa might have for doing yet another repair job that could return it to public use.
At the moment, those options seem limited.
The current city budget has $3.5 million for repairs to Williams and Jenkins pools and no others.
Next year’s budget forecast has $2.4 million set aside for Cuscaden and Hicks pools, but that money hasn’t been officially approved, Bayor said this week.
The 2014 budget already is $20 million in the red.
One thing is certain, Bayor said: The city won’t give up on the historic pool.
“It’s historic, so the building will be saved,” he said.
The last repairs to Cuscaden were finished in 2010, but the pool sprung a leak soon afterward and was closed again. It has been shut since then, in part because of budget shortfalls.
Bayor told council members last month that the city faces an $11 million backlog in repair work to its pools, with five pools sitting idle to save money.
Bayor said Cuscaden is far older than the average 20-year life of a public pool. It fails to meet modern standards for handicapped access and water quality, he said.
Further complicating matters are the leaks. The last time it was up and running, it lost 450,000 gallons of water a year through leaky plumbing, Bayor said.
“It’s an old pool and it’s going to continue to fail,” he said.
Despite that, Cuscaden has become a sentimental cause for council members and people who grew up spending summers splashing around there.
Councilwoman Yvonne Yolie Capin, raised in Ybor City, said she used to ride her bike to the pool as a third-grader.
“It is a very valued property to the community,” Capin said during last month’s discussion with Bayor. “We should put forth every effort to save that pool.”
A 2011 study put the repair bill for Cuscaden at $1.3 million. Bayor worries the final tally may be higher with the pool sitting unused and baking under the summer sun.
Several prominent members of the Ybor City community have said they’ll help raise private funds to make the repairs. A similar effort by the residents of Davis Islands helped keep Jenkins Pool open and running there.
Ybor City native Joe Capitano Sr. has told city officials he’s willing to help.
“The neighborhood needs it in the worst way,” Capitano said.
Councilman Frank Reddick, who represents the area around Cuscaden Pool, continues to push the city to put the pool back in order.
“The Cuscaden Pool has very significant meaning because it’s in a historic district,” Reddick said. “It’s very important to a lot of prominent people.”