EDITORIAL: Reopening William Penn pool a good start

York Dispatch
  • The York City School District hopes to reopen the school pool by January of 2019.
  • The renovation is expected to cost $1.2 million. The money will be raised through fundraising.
  • The pool has been closed for eight years and has been used recently for storage space.

Reopening the pool at William Penn High School is a good idea.

In fact, it's a great idea.

There are just 1.2 million problems.

Kerry Kirkland, seated at right, talks to fourth graders from McKinley K-8 about plans for the pool and dive tank at William Penn Senior High. (Photo: Jason Addy)

It will be up to us, as a community, to come up with the solutions.

Last week, the York City School District and local lawmakers announced plans to raise $1.2 million to reopen the swimming facilities at William Penn Senior High School (known to local sports fans as York High). The goal is have the Bearcats' pool and diving tank opened by January of 2019.

The swimming facilities at William Penn have been closed for eight years. In the interim, they have deteriorated while serving largely as storage space for desks, tables, chairs and filing cabinets.

It's been nearly a decade of missed opportunities for York City youngsters, who could've been learning the many benefits of a healthy and lifelong activity through physical education classes and athletic competition.

Instead, the swimming facilities stood unused.

What a waste.

Money at heart of problem: Of course, the original problem was money. The school district didn't have the money to maintain and renovate an aging facility that was built in 1971.

In 2017, the problem is still money. The district's already overburdened taxpayers can't afford to foot bill for the $1.2 million renovation. That's simply not an option.

Instead, the district and the lawmakers are hoping to raise the funds through volunteer efforts, alumni contributions and corporate sponsorships, including naming rights.

It's a laudable, but ambitious, goal.

$1.2 million needed to reopen William Penn pool

Fortunately, some well-known local stakeholders are already on board, including York Mayor Kim Bracey, York County Economic Alliance CEO Kevin Schreiber and state representatives Carol Hill-Evans, D-York City, and Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York Township.

The bipartisan support for a much-needed community project provides a welcomed respite from our current divisive political climate.

Legislative support is all well and good. Financial support, however, promises to be much more difficult.

It's hard to imagine the entire amount can be raised through small contributions from alumni and friends of the project.

The swimming facilities likely won't reopen unless the York-area corporate and philanthropic community steps up in a very big way.

Another challenge: If the financial goal is met, however, the next challenge will be up to the York City School District, which is in the process of reinvigorating a once-proud athletic program.

The Bearcats' swimming team, for instance, was once a state power in Pennsylvania, producing numerous All-Americans. When the pool closed, the York swimming program was a mere shadow of its former self.

In recent years, the Bearcats have been able to maintain just two varsity athletic programs during each scholastic season — football and girls' volleyball in the fall, boys' and girls' basketball in the winter and boys' and girls' track in the spring.

Even those programs have struggled at times to maintain a full roster of athletes.

Now, athletic director Ron Coursey has ambitious plans to restart a number of other athletic programs at the varsity level.

Will the school district produce enough athletes to fill the rosters in those sports and be competitive? Recent history at William Penn indicates that will be a tall order.

It will be up to Coursey and other York City School District administrators and coaches to inspire and attract the students to athletics. They must convince the York youngsters about the benefits of high school sports competition.

Only time will tell if the financial and athletic challenges can be met.

The goal to reopen the pool is a good start, but it's just the start.

Now the hard work really begins.