The Vero Beach City Council last week told impassioned protesters that the decision to pull the plug on the Leisure Square swimming pool isn’t final.
At a 2020 budget workshop the prior week, the City Council decided to close the money-losing swimming pool at the city’s Leisure Square recreation complex on Jan. 1 and build a skate park there instead. Council members said the pool costs the city about $194,000 annually but generates only $25,000 in revenue.
The decision sparked an angry social media frenzy and more than 100 protesters packed council chambers to try to save the swimming pool
In response, the council told dissidents the decision was not final and could be reversed when the 2020 budget is up for final approval in September.
Proponents of keeping the pool open spoke for about three hours, claiming the pool is therapeutic for elderly citizens with arthritis and other ailments, important for young children learning to swim and vital for the Special Olympics and Vero Beach High School, whose swim team practices there.
An estimated 400 to 500 people use the pool weekly, city officials said. About 220 city residents have individual monthly memberships to the pool and gym that cost $25, while 240 non-city residents have memberships costing $30 a month. The complex at 3705 16th St., which also includes a gymnastics program, was acquired by the city in the late 1980s.
Mayor Val Zudans continued to argue at the July 16 meeting for closing the pool and building a skate park. “Financially in the long run for our city, it will be a better park and better utilization for our community,” he said.
Users of the Leisure Square pool could migrate to the county-operated Gifford Aquatic Center or the North County Aquatic Center, which offer more amenities, Zudans said to jeers and boos from the sign carrying crowd.
County Administrator Jason Browntold the assembly the county pools Zudans referenced don’t turn a profit either. “Recreational programs don’t typically pay for themselves,” he said.
A skate park in the city would provide a safe place for more than 11,000 enthusiasts in the area, said Erin O’Connell, president of the Vero Beach Skate Park Alliance, which has been trying to raise money for a skate park for four years but has so far taken in only about $17,000.