As temperatures heat up, both young and old seek to cool off in a swimming pool—a concrete oasis in the desert.
For some, it is a good way to keep the kids occupied, and for others it is a way to help exercise aging bodies. No matter the reason, a public pool can be seen as a quality of life feature in many communities across Arizona, and Globe-Miami is no exception.
Two out of three community pools remain open in the area since the City of Globe closed its pool in 2014. At the time, it was estimated that repair would cost about $900,000, while a brand new pool would cost about $1.3 million.
Since then, both the Town of Miami and Freeport McMoRan have made heroic efforts to keep local swimmers afloat.
In March 2018, Freeport assumed operational and financial management of its Cobre Valley Recreation Center, restoring the family friendly amenity not only for mine employees, but for the larger community as well.
CVRC Director Alicia DiJulio said that Freeport completely remodeled the 1920s-era swimming pool. The list of repairs is long and includes redoing the cool decking, changing rooms and landscaping, re-plastering the entire pool and upgrading the pump system, among other cosmetic upgrades.
A pool must be 12 feet deep to have a diving board, and the CVRC pool is only eight-and-a-half, DiJulio said. With the extensive remodel, the pool was no longer grandfathered so, by state law, Freeport had to remove its diving board.
“That’s the major things,” said DiJulio, adding that there were also significant upgrades to lifeguard equipment, AEDs (defibrillators), railings and ladders, etc. “Basically, we did everything but put in a new pool,” she said.
And therein lies the problem.
No matter how much time, effort and money are put into upgrading and maintaining local pools, the fact remains that they are all aging.
As for Miami, Town Manager Joe Heatherly believes Hostetler Pool was built sometime in the 1950s. “It’s pretty old,” he said.
Heatherly said he believes there was not much work done to the pool over the years and, if there was, there are no records to show for it.
About two-and-a-half years ago, the town discovered major cracks in Hostetler, as well as problems with the chlorinator and the acid lines.
Heatherly contacted Capstone Mine, which provided structural engineers to study the pool. Armed with current information, the town was able to raise $120,000 in donations from local residents and the mines.
Two inches of concrete was laid down in the pool, which was then re-plastered, and the acid lines and chlorinator were replaced. The town also redid the cool decking and diving boards, upgraded the lifeguard chairs and the change houses, painted them and installed ventilation.
Understanding that, with age, people may lose upper body strength making it difficult to get in and out of a pool, the town looked into a “zero entry pool,” a pool with one or more gradually sloping sides to transition from land to water. Heatherly estimated the cost at $100,000.
Because Hostetler Pool is 40 yards long and the CCYS Globe-Miami Piranhas Swim Team needs a competition-length pool of 25 yards, the town looked into a floating divider, also an estimated $100,000, Heatherly said. Each year, the town spends at least $10,000 to maintain its pool.
“Our best guess is that the pool is going to last another three or four years,” Heatherly estimates.
So that is Miami’s current dilemma: Does it spend $300,000 now for upgrades or “just sink the money into a new pool?” he said.
For Heatherly, the solution lies in a third option—the proposed Cobre Valley Regional Aquatic Center (CVRAC). A committee comprised of several local stakeholders has worked on the project for six years and continues to do so.
Proponents envision a large, taxpayer-funded pool and waterpark, centrally located between Globe and Miami. Heatherly believes that the days of each community operating its own pool are over, especially for smaller municipalities like Globe and Miami.
“I think that Globe-Miami and Southern Gila County need to ask, ‘How do we regionalize services, including pools, libraries and schools?,” he said. “But logic loses momentum when politics gets involved.”
Heatherly believes it is time to “put aside the old grudges and do what’s in the best interest of the community, especially the kids who are suffering because of it.”
Some of the young people suffering include members of CCYS Globe-Miami Piranhas swim team, for whom Hostetler is the home pool.
Leslie Parker, who has lived in Globe 19 years, became a swim parent 11 years ago and has helped organize the team for about five years.
After Globe closed its pool in 2014, Parker immediately approached Miami about using Hostetler and the CCYS Globe Piranhas became the Globe-Miami Piranhas.
Thinking Hostetler would be a temporary solution for the Piranhas, Parker told herself, “Two years.”
“This is now our sixth summer in Miami,” she said. “I’m kind of tired of waiting. It’s both frustrating and sad.”
Hostetler Pool was closed three days this summer due to equipment failure, such as the chlorinator lines being plugged and, another time, the sand filter covers were cracked and had to be replaced.
Finding no one local who could fix them, Miami Public Works Director Tom Moreno took them to a Valley machinist shop that worked on them on a Friday afternoon. At a recent Miami town council meeting, Vice Mayor Sammy Gonzales praised Moreno for going above and beyond to get the pool fixed.
The Piranhas host three swim meets every summer, bringing swimmers and their families from out of town, who no doubt spend money locally. With the first meet, the visiting team said they didn’t want to swim at Hostetler Pool due to safety concerns.
The Piranhas had to cancel their third Miami meet because of the broken filter. Parker points out that the Globe-Miami area missed two opportunities to host out-of-towners who would add to the local economy.
“It’s been too long,” she said. “We are missing meets and delaying practices.”
Parker said that program enrollment nearly doubled from last year, with 70 swimmers this year, thanks to Coach Barry Schwenk.
“Our group of kids are positive, supportive and all-around great kids, and we have great parents,” she said. “Our program is excellent. We have everything all lined up. We just need the pool.”
Globe native Betty Salcido, who has taught water aerobics locally for 20 years, points out that there could be youth in the community with the talent to become Olympic swimmers, but need an appropriate pool in which to practice.
In 2000, Salcido began teaching water aerobics at the Globe pool and, when it closed, moved her classes to the CVRC pool, which, at 20 yards long was too small, as was the shallow area.
“Most of my ladies were drowning,” Salcido said. “Some ladies dropped out of the class because they weren’t comfortable.”
This is Salcido’s fourth season at Hostetler Pool. With class enrollment growing every year, she had 33 women in water aerobics this summer. “We tend to bump into each other with such a large class,” she said.
She is a firm believer that the health benefits from water aerobics are many, such as strengthening the heart, improving the arteries, and supporting the immune system.
Over the years, Salcido witnessed many examples of improved health. A woman in Salcido’s class once showed her that she could bend her knee to the waist, to which Salcido thought, “Okay, that’s good.” “You don’t understand,” the woman explained. “I couldn’t bend my knee at all.”
Salcido is a strong advocate for the proposed aquatic center, which was introduced to the Arizona State Legislature in January.
Known as State Bill No.1257, it passed by a 26-4 vote in the Senate, but did not make it to the House floor for a vote and died.
“We are not quitting there,” Salcido said. “It will happen because we’re not throwing in the towel.”
Award winning journalist with over 18 years experience in covering local news and issues affecting rural communities. Married 37 years, my life has taken me from Phoenix to Willcox to Globe. My husband and I are both overjoyed to find ourselves in Globe-Miami, with its rich history and sense of community. This is truly home.