Launch of Pop-Up Pool helps keep Philly cool

Communities / Article

Photos by Monica Peters.

North Philadelphia residents enjoyed one of their city’s public pools resort-style last week.

Community members luxuriated in the vacation-like setting at the city of Philadelphia’s Francisville Recreation Center taking full advantage of newly installed palm trees, lounge decks, games and other amenities.

The Pop-Up Pool Project, funded as part of the 2015 Knight Cities Challenge, will be at the center through Aug. 21. The challenge, announced last fall, sought ideas on how to make Knight’s 26 communities more vibrant places to live and work.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter kicked off the July 1 launch festivities, which included poolside performances by jazz band Khadijah’s Trio.

“The Pop-Up Pool Project is all about demonstrating the forgotten potential of public pools to act as valuable civic spaces in neighborhoods,” said Ben Bryant whose idea was one of seven Knight Cities Challenge projects selected in Philadelphia; 32 projects won nationwide.

Bryant is glad to see community members from diverse backgrounds enjoy the new amenities. He is looking to replicate the concept next year at more recreation centers in Philadelphia.

At poolside, local resident and regular pool-goer Josie Gatlin relaxed while her, husband, Michael, treaded in the pool with their 18-month-old son, Franklin.

“It’s fabulous!” she said, admiring the pool’s transformation.

During the launch, Penny Giles, executive director of the Francisville Neighborhood Development Corp., challenged some of the youth to a race. Nutter cheered on the kids as they swam vigorously to win bragging rights.

“It’s really about the joy of seeing the kids have fun. We are appreciative of all Knight Foundation’s support of the pop-up pool, their initiatives in Philadelphia and cities around the country,” said Nutter. Philadelphia is one of 26 Knight communities, places where foundation founders John S. and James L. Knight once owned newspapers.

Jodie and Anthony Vento, new transplants to the neighborhood from Pittsburgh, enjoyed the pool with their 2-year-old daughter, Addie. 

“In Pittsburgh you have to pay to use the city public pools,” Jodie said.

As part of the project, free weekly Aqua Zumba classes are offered through Aug. 15.

The playground also received an installed turf area with tables with umbrellas and gigantic games, including checkers, Connect Four and building blocks.

Nine-year-old Bionah Rigsby kept cool sitting at a table under the umbrella shade playing a solo game of cards.

“The pool experience wasn’t good as this before. There weren’t a lot of people here before; now they’re a lot of people here today.”