Amy Krulik has a lot of memories of hours spent sitting on the deck while she watched her children learning how to swim, working as lifeguards and just growing up at the Kaiserman JCC pool.
Until about five years ago, the JCC had an indoor pool — instead of the current outdoor pool — where the community center offered a variety of different programming throughout the seasons, including an intramural swim team, a preschool swim program, an aquatics fitness program, special events and pool parties. Unlike many community pools, the JCC also had designated times for men-only and women-only swimming.
Krulik, the JCC’s CEO, is looking forward to giving these same year-round opportunities to families once again.
By 2019, the Kaiserman JCC plans to have a tent installed over the pool, barring any weather-related or unforeseen obstacles. This will allow programming to return to the pool during the fall, winter and spring, in addition to the summer.
“To be able to bring all of that [programming] back to the JCC would be hugely important to us organizationally but [also] us as a community,” Krulik said. “It’s an incredible community resource, and it was always the heart of the JCC. Not having that resource has been really challenging. I’m very excited that there is this solution that’s just so close.”
In 2013, a leak in the pool building roof led to the discovery that the 1955 structure no longer met building codes. Lower Merion Township wouldn’t allow the roof to just be repaired. It wanted the whole structure rebuilt, a costly project.
After much deliberation, the Kaiserman JCC made the decision to remove the building and instead have an outdoor pool, accessible only in the summer.
The JCC lost 40 percent of its membership. Many of those members left for other pools that are open all year.
Some of those former members have stayed in touch with the JCC and have told Krulik they look forward to becoming members again when the pool is available year-round.
“They miss the sense of community, the camaraderie, their friends,” Krulik said. “When you’re a member of the JCC, it’s not only about the pool. There’s a fitness gym and a sauna and a steam room and the track and the gym and all of those other pieces of the puzzle that you have at your disposal. The people look for that sense of community, and they are really excited about being able to come back here and connect to the Jewish community in a way that they had for many years.”
When Krulik took the JCC’s reins in January 2017, she immediately got to work researching a solution to the pool problem and looking at different options, but the options she looked at either didn’t make sense for the size or were too expensive.
Krulik came across an answer by accident, when a security consultant offered by way of advice that she should look into getting a tent.
Krulik looked into it and got in touch with EventQuip about building a tent for the pool.
The tent should be up by the end of the year, Krulik said. A steel structure will encase the pool all year, and EventQuip will put up the vinyl tent for October and take it down for May. The tent will not cover the toddler pool.
The most important consideration in the installation of this tent is making sure it’s safe, said Alan Pavlik, senior project manager at EventQuip. The tent is designed to be weather-resistant and to withstand winds up to 75 or 80 miles per hour.
Pavlik said EventQuip does one or two projects a year that are as long-term as the tent for the Kaiserman JCC pool.
“The main difference is it’s over top of a pool,” Pavlik said. “It’s going to be used for the wintertime. Usually, [clients] put it up for the summertime, for the summer season to do weddings, things like that. This one is uniquely for the wintertime for the continued operation of the pool and everybody swimming.”
The tent will be mostly opaque with some clear panels, Krulik said. It will also have heating and lighting.
Though the outdoor pool was popular with the summer campers, Krulik noted, it meant the end of the community institution and all its programming from mid-September to mid-May.
A tent means the outdoor pool will stay for future summers, while allowing accessibility to the pool in the other seasons.
Krulik said the JCC intends for the tent to just be a temporary situation, for maybe about three years, while it works out a longer-term solution.
“Putting the pool back into commission is huge for us in terms of membership,” Krulik said. “We hear from people who swim other places. I’ve been as transparent as I can be with our members, to say to them, ‘Hey look, here’s what I’m working on, here’s where it is.’ They know the play-by-play as we work through this pool process. They’ve shared this information, and there are people who’ve stayed on our mailing list and on our email list and are getting that information who are swimming at other places and are just counting the days until they can come back and swim here.”
Not too long ago, Krulik received an email from former members, telling her that everyone who had signed the email wanted to hear about the progress on the pool and looked forward to returning to the JCC. When she looked at who had signed, she expected to see just a handful of names.
Sixty people had signed the email.
“We can’t wait to help those 60 people and 60 other people and 60 other people,” Krulik said. “It’ll be a very exciting time for us here. I can’t wait. As a person who spent many weekend afternoons at the pool with my kids growing up, I will really look forward to being out on the deck and watching other families doing exactly what my kids grew up doing.”