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Neighborhood Report

Bad heater puts chill in seniors' aerobics

Senior swimmers at the Interbay Boys and Girls Club are hoping for a fixed pool heater soon; 70 degrees is too chilly.

By SUSAN THURSTON, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 20, 2002

Millie McFadden started water aerobics classes more than 15 years ago to stay fit and healthy.

The water workout keeps her 74-year-old muscles limber and her heart strong. On average, she takes the plunge three times a week.

She stopped going to classes about two months ago when the heater broke at the Conn Natatorium at the Jim Walter Interbay Boys and Girls Club on S Coolidge Avenue. The water got too cold for her thin Floridian blood.

"I don't want to take a chance and get sick," she said.

McFadden isn't alone in her worries. Many senior citizens who frequent the pool have abandoned their aerobic routines until the heater gets fixed. Instructor Thelma Donovan said the 70-degree water is too chilly for the hourlong classes, especially this time of year.

Seniors like herself prefer it a toasty 82.

The club opens the pool to the community as part of a deal with the city of Tampa's Recreation Department, which provides classes and the lifeguards. When something major breaks, however, neither has money for repairs.

The pool's heater broke down a few months ago after a several-year run.

Club officials promise to replace it as soon as they can. They found a company to donate a new unit but now need time to install it.

All the rain has caused delays.

"I'm doing all I can to help these people ... but it takes time," said Richard Someillan, director of the facilities and events for the Boys and Girls Club of Tampa. "I guess they think it can be done overnight."

Someillan and Karla Kipi, Tampa's aquatics wellness supervisor, met with the swimmers a few weeks ago to explain the situation and beg for patience. He stressed that the club can't afford costly repairs and reminded them that the club opens the pool as a free community service.

"I'm in the business for the Boys and Girls Club,' he said. "(The seniors) could go to other pools."

The city of Tampa temporarily moved the water aerobics classes to the Interbay Pool on W Estrella Street but no one attended. Though heated, the pool is outdoors.

The city operates eight heated pools, including four that stay open year-round. Others rotate through the winter and spring months.

The Boys and Girls Club hopes to resume the water aerobics classes in the next week or so.

In the meantime, Someillan said the club has other pool-related needs that deserve attention. In the women's locker room, for example, it takes a long time to get hot water in the showers.

The club has started an account exclusively for the senior citizen swimmers and will post a running tally on the bulletin board, he said. One woman gave him $5. Another wrote a $20 check.

Every little bit helps.

For now, McFadden and her fellow aerobics partners wait anxiously for the new heater so they can get back to their classes.

"I really need to go," she said. "It makes you feel better."

-- Susan Thurston can be reached at 226-3394 or

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