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Fundraiser Puts Lawrenceville Empty Pool to Use

By Craig Smith
Sunday, July 11, 2010

Retired Pittsburgh police officer Marty Joyce heard loud music in his Lawrenceville neighborhood Saturday afternoon and went to investigate.

The Leslie Park Pool, now empty of water, was filled with Zumba dancers who were helping to heighten awareness of a campaign to find alternative uses for the pool and to raise funds for gulf oil spill restoration efforts.

“There used to be lots of kids here. It was always jumping,” Joyce said of the pool where he used to take his son.

Modeled after an effort at the McCarren Park Pool in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, that was closed two decades ago and reopened as a concert venue, the Lawrenceville event was part of the inaugural series being staged by the Leslie Park Pool Collective, a community group working to reuse the decommissioned pool as a multi-use event and performance space.

Proceeds from the event, called the “Spillapalooza,” benefit the Gulf Restoration Network. Organizers said they hadn’t set a dollar goal but expected to be able to send some donations to the Gulf Coast group.

The Leslie Park Pool was closed in 2003, when Pittsburgh decommissioned 16 city pools. Some are being reused, but the Leslie Park Pool has sat vacant. Estimates for needed repairs were more than $1 million.

Neighborhood residents working as the Leslie Park Pool Initiative launched an effort to “reimagine” and redevelop the pool. Last year, they held an Accordion Pool Party that attracted about 600 people and included a clean-up that pulled almost half a ton of garbage from the property.

The Spillapalooza enabled Beth Renshaw to take her second Zumba class of the day. Zumba is a fitness program inspired by Latin dance. “It’s a fabulous cause, and I love Zumba. Why wouldn’t I be here?” said Renshaw of Shadyside, who left the event to play volleyball.

There will be more fundraising for the Gulf Coast and more events to help rethink use of the empty pool, organizers said.

“This is not a one and done thing,” said Shane Freeman, who organized the grassroots group that staged yesterday’s event. It came together in a month and a half, he said.

Next up at the pool is a surf music concert on July 24.

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Phone: 412-471-5808  |  Fax: 412-471-1633