Mayor Greg Fischer announced new community swimming events this summer at a news conference on Wednesday, along with YMCA CEO Steve Tarver, JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio and Papa John’s CEO Steve Ritchie (left to right) | Photo by Joe Sonka

Mayor Greg Fischer announced Wednesday morning that Louisville will host swimming events for children throughout the summer with the help of local partners and philanthropic gifts, though the four city-owned outdoors pools currently shut down due to the city’s budget crunch will remain closed for the foreseeable future.

A $90,000 gift from the Papa John’s Foundation and a $10,000 gift from Louisville native and NFL player Jamon Brown and his team the Atlanta Falcons will fund the operation of 10 community swimming events at the southwest and downtown YMCAs and weekend swimming events at Central High School this summer.

These 10 three-hour swimming events at the YMCA will not be free, as those 14 years old and over will be charged $3 and those younger will be charged $2, and the capacity for each event is 100 people. Central High School will host four-hour sessions at its pools on Fridays and Saturdays through the summer to host summer camps, community organization and individuals interested in swim lessons, charging group rates of $2 per child.

Papa John’s CEO Steve Ritchie spoke at the mayor’s news conference announcing the summer events, indicating that his company will provide free pizza for their attendees.

“While I realized that this these activities don’t fully replace the capacity of the four pools we were forced to close, it will help give more people — especially children — access to swimming opportunities, which is an important part of the summer for many families,” said Fischer.

Following Metro Council’s rejection of a proposal to raise new tax revenue, Fischer announced in early April that the city’s four outdoor pools would not open for the summer, which was also reflected in his proposed budget for the next fiscal year starting July 1.

Public swimming events will continue at the Southwest YMCA, among others, this summer. | Courtesy of YMCA of Greater Louisville

Closing the pools in Algonquin, Fairdale, Norton and Sun Valley was projected to save the city $272,500 next year, while Fischer also indicated that these pools needed million of dollars worth of repairs. The mayor said that while he did not want to close the pools, the city’s budget crunch and council’s rejection of new tax revenue forced his hand to find efficiencies, with the pools’ operational costs of $45 per swim causing them to go on the chopping block.

Ritchie and Brown reached out to the mayor’s office soon after these closures were announced, expressing interest in donating the funds needed to either keep the pools open or provide other swimming options for children in the city.

Fischer spent much of the news conference repeating his familiar talking points from the past few months on the city’s budget situation, saying the pool closures were a direct result of Metro Council voting down a proposal in March to raise $20 million of new revenue through a tax increase on certain types of insurance premiums.

Noting that the city’s pension costs are set to increase by an additional $10 million annual in the coming years, the mayor added that “one-time gifts” cannot re-open pools, “but hopefully one-time gifts and philanthropic activity will give us a little breathing room in the event that the council wants to reconsider some of these issues around revenue so that we can address some of the problems that we’re experiencing right now.”

Fischer went on to add another request for people to contact their council members and share their opinions supporting new tax revenue that allows the city to expand and not retract its services — a move that many council members who voted against a tax increase have bristled against.

“The reality is, until we secure new revenue we’re going to continue to face cuts — and deeper cuts than what we’re talking about here — every year for the next several years,” said Fischer. “If the people of Louisville want more robust and more complete city services – whether that be fire, police, libraries, and city service — let your council members know that you support new revenue for the future of our city.”

Councilwoman Keisha Dorsey, D-3, whose West End district includes the closed Algonquin pool, attended the mayor’s news conference and told Insider Louisville afterward that she appreciates the support of Papa John’s and is glad some “synergies” have been found to increase swimming options.

However, Dorsey added that she is disappointed that Fischer continues to “point fingers” at council members like her who voted against the tax increase in March, while ignoring that his administration had let deferred maintenance go on for so many years and allowed the outdoor pools to go into such disrepair.

“I still feel like we’re in this accusatory, retaliatory cycle, and it’s not helping anybody,” said Dorsey.

Dates and details of the swimming events this summer are below:

Southwest YMCA — 2801 Fordhaven Road

Saturday, June 15 — 3:30-6:30 p.m.
Saturday, June 29 — 3:30-6:30 p.m.
Saturday, July 13 — 3:30-6:30 p.m.
Friday, July 26 — 5:30-8:30 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 9 — 5:30-8:30 p.m.

Downtown YMCA — 555 S. Second St.

Saturday, June 8 — 3:30-6:30 p.m.
Sunday, June 23 — 3:30-6:30 p.m.
Sunday, July 7 — 3:30-6:30 p.m.
Sunday, July 21 — 3:30-6:30 p.m.
Sunday, Aug. 4 — 3:30-6:30 p.m.

Fees for YMCA events are $3/person 14 years and over and $2/youth 13 and under. Vouchers for the summer swim events can be purchased at Metro Parks Administrative Offices, 1297 Trevilian Way; at the Mary T. Meagher Aquatic Center, 201 Reservoir Ave., starting Monday, June 3; or at the YMCA, beginning 30 minutes before the start of the event. Capacity for these events is 100 people per event.

The structured program swims at Central High School’s pool, 1130 Chestnut St., begin June 14. Group rates are $2 per child, and the swims are from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Fridays, and from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturdays in June and July.

Interested organizations should call the Parks and Recreation main office at 502-574- 7275 for additional information.

Joe Sonka
Joe Sonka is a staff writer at Insider Louisville focusing on government, politics, education and public safety. He is a former news editor and staff writer at LEO Weekly and has also freelanced for The Nation and ThinkProgress. He has won first place awards from the Louisville Metro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in the categories of Health Reporting, Enterprise Reporting, Government/Politics, Minority/Women’s Affairs Reporting, Continuing Coverage and Best Blog. Email him at [email protected]