Kepler Pool set to open this summer

Kepler Pool in Bellefonte sits empty in September after having to close because of a broken pump. Funding that had been set to expire in 2014 has been extended, allowing the pool to open in 2015.
Kepler Pool in Bellefonte sits empty in September after having to close because of a broken pump. Funding that had been set to expire in 2014 has been extended, allowing the pool to open in 2015. CDT file photo

Yes, there will be swimming in Bellefonte this summer.

There was a good possibility that would not be the case in September. Kepler Pool’s gates closed a week early when a pump motor burned out, leaving the Nittany Valley Joint Recreational Authority to scramble for plans for 2015.

The worst-case scenario would have been that the 44-year-old pool would close for good since, in addition to the pump repair, it needed upgrades to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The best-case scenario would have been that it closed for just one summer to make extensive improvements that would allow it to be a greater asset to the residents of the four municipalities it serves.

What no one really expected was a middle ground that would mean open gates in 2015. The repairs, however, will be minimal.

The authority’s Howard Long and Mike Bonchack said the pump motor was repaired over the winter and the ADA improvements, including a second access to the pool and a gentler slope to a concrete area, are being planned. It is not the $2 million to $4 million extreme makeover they had wanted, but it will keep kids splashing over the summer.

The change in plans came after asking Bellefonte and Benner, Spring and Walker townships for a dedicated tax to support the pool and, potentially, other recreation projects.

Bellefonte said yes. Conversations with the townships led to a survey of residents that came back with “an overwhelming response of no.”

“At that point, we all thought the pool was done,” Long said.

The municipalities, however, did come through with something else. Although the $1 per resident funding that the authority receives was set to expire in 2014, they did agree to extend it into 2015.

“It could be a year-to-year decision,” Long said, stressing that the authority is very happy to have the support from the communities. That money provides most of the pool’s budget each year.

“We are very grateful, and they need to know that,” he said.

Now they need everyone else to know that Kepler will be filled up and waiting for dog-paddling and games of Marco Polo.

Season passes will be available starting May 1. For residents of the four municipalities, they range from $85 for youth and seniors to $155 for families if purchased by June 1. After that, the price jumps to $95 to $170. Daily admission is $3 for kids 4 and younger; $4 for seniors and kids 5-17; and $5 for adults. For nonresidents, prices go up by $30 per season pass and $1 for daily admission.

Prices have remained the same for four years. Long said prices cannot really be raised because “we will outprice ourselves.”

In 2014, the pool welcomed 9,700 people. Long said attendance was lower the past two years because of cool, rainy summers.

“The one thing we can’t control is the weather,” he said.

But Bonchack said the pool still fills a critical need for local children and families.

“It’s more expensive to go to the State College pools. People can’t afford to take their kids to DelGrosso Park every day. This fills a need,” he said.

It also ensures that children do not just have a place to swim, but that they have a place that is safe.

Long and Bonchack said the authority has not given up on its long-term goal of giving the community a better, more functional, more appealing recreation option, but that doing it might have to happen in phases instead of one fell swoop.

The group continues to explore other funding options. In addition to grants, they are open to donations and pursuing sponsorships.