Pool Season Kicks-Off from South Philly

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Pool Season officially began with a ceremony at South Philadelphia’s Murphy Recreation Center and even 1st District Councilman Mark Squilla took a dip and got in on the fun. Photos by Eldon Graham

South Philadelphia was the place to be on June 22 as Mayor Jim Kenney joined city officials at Murphy Recreation Center, located at Third and Shunk streets, to kick off the 2017 public pool season and also to dedicate Murphy’s newly renovated playground.

The mayor blew the ceremonial whistle to officially open the pools throughout the city; more than 70 indoor and outdoor Parks & Recreation Department pools will open for the summer.

A lot of work goes into getting the pools ready for a summer’s worth of people trying to beat the heat.

Lisa Whittle, aquatics and ice-rinks program coordinator for Parks & Rec, works year-round to make sure the pools are in top shape for the summer months.

“We definitely survey all the pools to see which ones need to be painted,” she explained. “We see which ones need concrete work, where is the work on the filter system – the operations. Then we get into the program part: We start lifeguard training, making sure everyone is certified in first aid and CPR. Then we go through background checks and drug screenings for the lifeguards – there are many steps along the way.”

Whittle believes Parks & Rec pools are good for communities. “Everyone in Philadelphia just loves their own neighborhood pool. If you take a pool away, it hurts the neighborhood,” she said. “We have the most outdoor pools per capita in Philadelphia, so we have like the biggest system in the United States.”

Philadelphia’s public pools are maintained by more than 800 employees.

Whittle was not the only one in attendance who was excited to open the pools. Councilman Mark Squilla (D-1st) made a spectacle of himself when he jumped into Murphy Pool – suit and all – after Mayor Jim Kenney, another South Philadelphian, blew the ceremonial whistle. After coming out the pool, he exclaimed: “It was beautiful!”

The pool alone was not the only reason to be excited at the Murphy Recreation center, thanks to the unveiling of new playground equipment.

Kathryn Ott Lovell, Parks & Rec commissioner, who literally got her feet wet with excitement, said, “this great project is only possible because of our incredible leadership at the city level. We are so lucky to have a mayor who doesn’t just talk the talk but is walking the walk, in terms of these types of renovations – not just here in South Philly, but throughout the entire city of Philadelphia.”

City officials were in South Philly to cut the ribbon on the new playground area at Murphy Recreation Center. Cutting the ribbon were Kathryn Ott Lovell, Commissioner for Philadelphia Parks and Recreation; Michael DiBerardinis, Managing Director for the City of Philadelphia; Councilman Mark Squilla, and Mayor Jim Kenney.

Kenney was just as enthusiastic about the new playground equipment. As he told the large crowd, he grew up playing in Parks & Rec centers. “Children will be able to take advantage of this, not just this summer, but year-round. They’ll be able to build friendships and memories like we did growing up.”

Councilman Squilla was happy to see it come to life. “This happens because the community is involved in this neighborhood and the community really cares,” he said.

Murphy is more than just a play space; it’s where the community meets and comes together. Gabriel Baker, a community representative, explained how the rec center has become a true staple for the neighborhood. “We decided to run our boys’ basketball team out of Murphy Rec this year,” he said. “Seven years ago, we moved to this area. My wife and I were searching for a safe playground. We came to Murphy Rec and met some great people whom we now call family.”

Those interested in swimming are advised to check in with their neighborhood pool for days and times of open swim, family swim and adult swim, as well as swim lessons and swim-team activities.

Citywide pool hours are as follows: Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday & Sunday; 12-5 p.m. Public swim is available everyday 1-4 p.m. at each pool. Contact your local pool for family-swim and adult-swim schedules. For more information, visit Philadelphia Parks & Recreation Swimming Pools page.

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