Villagers to lose their indoor pool

Article Courtesy of The Daily Commercial
Published February 8, 2009

THE VILLAGES -- Lillian Campagnola, 73, exercises in the indoor heated pool at The Villages Wellness Center several times a week.

Because she's easily dehydrated, she can't participate in many outdoor activities. The pool is one of the only places the Villager can continue her exercise routine without getting dehydrated.

Plans to close the pool in June when the Wellness Center moves to the La Reina building in Spanish Springs will leave many residents with medical conditions without a place to exercise, she said.

"All we want is the pool to be maintained," she said, "even if that means charging memberships."

A letter sent to members from the Wellness Center last month stated the center was moving from its location near The Villages Regional Hospital on U.S. Highway 441 to expand its services. The new center will feature more exercise machines, classes and massage therapy services.

"With our growth in membership and utilization, a larger facility is much needed and this new location provides our members with numerous advantages," Terry Upton, general manager of the center, wrote in the letter. "While our new facility does offer many advantages, it does not provide for a swimming pool or hot tub. Knowing that some of our members enjoy those services only, we will refund the remaining balance on any membership if so requested."

Upton did not return calls for comment.

The center's pool is the only indoor heated pool in the huge retirement community. Those with skin irritations, joint problems and conditions like fibromyalgia (a muscle and connective tissue disorder) will have to go somewhere else to continue their routine, said Campagnola.

There are pools in other surrounding communities, but some residents can't drive to Leesburg or Belleview in Marion County because of their medical problems, she said.

Campagnola has gathered more than 150 signatures to ask the developers of The Villages to consider keeping the pool.

What the developers intend to do with the Wellness Center and the pool is a mystery to residents.

Villages spokesman Gary Lester could not be reached for comment.

Both homeowners associations in The Villages are picking up the pool issue.

Joe Gorman, president of the Property Owners Association, said they intend to pursue the issue. A lot of people moved to The Villages especially because they had access to an indoor pool, he said.

"We're concerned," Gorman said. "It does affect more than just a handful of people."

The Villages Homeowners Association is actively working with the Wellness Center and other entities to explore what the cost would be to build an aquatic center with a heated pool, said Roger Kass, president of the association, in a voicemail.

Ruthie Kelly, 78, who's had two strokes, said she and other residents plan broach the issue with the Amenities Authority when they meet on Feb. 11 at 1:30 p.m. to ask them to consider enclosing certain heated pools within The Villages.

Villagers pay monthly amenities fees to pay for facilities and services such as heated pools, community centers and activities throughout the community.

A member of the Wellness Center since 1999, Kelly uses the pool several times a week to exercise. Kelly said there must be an alternative for residents like herself.

"You're not going to displace these people," said Kelly. "It's a matter of health."