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Panama City Beach Aquatic Center could be closing seasonally

Published: Aug. 20, 2021 at 9:21 PM CDT
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PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Grab your towel, sunscreen, and goggles, because everyone is heading to the pool.

“I can come and snorkel every day and get the exercise and improve my health. And I want to be the young sexy 60, not the old decrepit 60,” Panama City Beach Aquatic Center member Cindy Boncosky said.

The Panama City Beach Aquatic Center in Frank Brown Park makes a splash all year round.

“I come to this pool all the time, every month of the year to get my exercises,” Panama City Beach Aquatic Center member Kathy Nesbitt said.

It’s a popular place for all age groups.

“I teach a lot of young ones in the winter, through the winter who want that continuity of instruction. That’s what we provide,” Panama City Beach Aquatic Center swim and fitness instructor Suzy Turek said.

Thousands take advantage of the Olympic-sized pool every single year. And while it’s a hot spot for locals, the pool is open to visitors as well. Dive teams all across the country have come to train when the weather doesn’t allow them to in their hometowns.

At this week’s budget workshop, Council members discussed possibly closing the pool in the winter to save money.

The city released a statement saying, “this would allow the heaters to be turned off seasonally, thereby saving some on utilities.” But the email then explains how previous studies show this would not make much of a difference.

Some people said they’re upset this was even brought up.

“These city leaders, they need to negotiate the situation and find the money,” Panama City Beach Aquatic Center member Diane Vitale said.

“Find the money. Keep my pool open. Otherwise, I have no place to go and exercise for those months out of the year,” Panama City Beach Aquatic Center member Carol Metaxas said.

City leaders said they know how important this facility is to our community and are looking at all the options.

THE FULL RELEASE: During the Wednesday, August 18 budget workshop when the Aquatic Center operations, revenues and expenses were being reviewed by the Panama City Beach City Council, the idea of closing the pool during the winter months was brought up as a way to cut expenses.

This would allow the heaters to be turned off seasonally, thereby saving some on utilities. Staff said previous analysis have shown this would not result in significant savings, however, as the pool heaters are energy-efficient geothermal heaters. The Aquatic Center budget is subsidized by revenues from the Russell-Fields City Pier.

The Mayor and City Council recognize all parks and recreation facilities, including the pool, as important to residents’ quality of life. No decision regarding going to a seasonal schedule has been made. Any and all options to make the pool more self-sustaining are being explored, as the Council seeks to be fiscally responsible with taxpayer funds.

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