Pools are built to last 40 years. So why is Ridgewood running on 60+ years of service?

A behind-the-scenes look at making this pool work
Pools are built to last 40 years. So why is Ridgewood running on 60+ years of service?
FreeImages.com/Michel Meynsbrughen

In its latest ranking, USA Swimming named Madison the No. 5 best swim city in the country, thanks in part to its number of community pools, such as the Ridgewood Pool on Barton Road. That facility has helped teach thousands of kids to swim over the past 60 years.

And that’s part of the problem.

Pools are built to last about 40 years; a long life for a swimming pool is 50 years. So at 60 years old, Ridgewood Pool needs a lot of work to make it ready for swimmers this summer.

Mac McGilvray, the Ridgewood board president, said crews have been busy patching deteriorating cement and addressing shifting cement at Ridgewood over the past few years. He also had expansion joints installed in the pool’s pump house. Those joints are generally used in earthquake zones. At Ridgewood, they help keep the pipes from breaking.

Aging pools are part of a larger problem. Instead of getting rebuilt, many pools are closing. In the past ten years, 1,800 pools across the country have closed, according to USA Swimming. 33 of those commercial closures were here in Wisconsin.

When more pools close, McGilvray said fewer kids have access to swim lessons. That could be behind the increase in drowning deaths. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , there are an average of 3,536 fatal unintentional drownings each year in the U.S. That’s about 10 deaths per day. About 1 in 5 people who die from drowning are children age 14 and younger. For every child who dies from drowning, another five children receive emergency department care for nonfatal submersion injuries.

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