By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes
Like the Ford Mustang, the Palma Ciea Swim Club in Keizer has turned 50 years old this year.
But whereas the Mustang is having an extended anniversary celebration, that’s not the case with the Keizer pool.
The Palma Ciea Swim Club is closed and is currently for sale.
Beth Thorndike, president of the pool at 900 Chemawa Road North, took over the pool three years ago but put it on the market last month.
“The pool does not support itself financially,” Thorndike said. “There are not enough members and we didn’t get enough the last two years. It was being run poorly when I stepped in. They were losing money. The finances of the pool aren’t good and we weren’t able to generate the business.”
Thorndike said anyone could take swimming lessons at the pool, with members getting discounts.
“It was significantly less expensive than the Courthouse (Athletic Club in Salem),” she said. “Our instructors were every bit as good. Swim lessons paid for themselves. We made money on swim lessons last year. We also had a swim team, which has always paid for itself.”
The problem, according to Thorndike, was not enough financial support outside of those two entities.
“There was a core of about 20 to 25 people who stayed with the pool,” she said. “The year I came on (2011), the finances had been so poorly run that they had members abandon. It can have up to 95 members. It was at that level for years. You have to maintain things and put money back into the pool, like resurfacing the pool.”
Lois Boase’s parents were charter members No. 25 and Boase herself was involved with pool leadership for 30 years, including being a board member from 2003 to 2013.
“I don’t want to overplay this, but it’s like a death,” Boase said of the pool’s closing. “Not the death of a person, but of a way of life. I have really fun memories from there. I learned to swim there. My brother was there most of the time as well. When Palma Ciea Villa started, it was its own little community. Everyone that was at the pool we went to school with. They were our neighbors. It was one big happy family.”
Boase said charter memberships were $250, plus dues of $36 a month during the season. That was big money 50 years ago.
“It was a big economic investment,” said Boase, whose time in leadership included being the board secretary for eight years. “The founders were trying to start it up. They walked from house to house. They talked to everyone about the opportunity for this neighborhood pool for their children. By golly, they pulled it off. I still have those slips of paper they showed us.”
Boase said she stayed involved with the pool for three decades for a reason.
“It was a respect for the sacrifice that my parents made for me to have that experience and to make sure that it continued so more and more children from generation after generation could experience what I got to experience,” she said.
Thorndike’s history with the pool isn’t as deep, but her connection was instantaneous – once she actually saw the pool.
“It’s a wonderful pool,” she said. “When you walk to the inside, it looks wonderful. That’s what brought me to it. I saw it and joined that day for swimming lessons. It was beautiful and clean. I hadn’t known much about the pool, but I saw a flier about it. I pulled up and saw the arboretum. I said if the pool looks like the outside, I’m leaving. But the instructors were ready to go and the pool was gorgeous, just gorgeous.”
Thorndike said she became president because she had ideas and plans, something board members at the time didn’t have.
“People weren’t excited about that by the time I came on,” she said. “Because of the problems, members were mad and they left. The current board members have worked their butts off. We were meeting every other week trying to get it going.”
Alas, Thorndike said the efforts were for naught.
“I was trying to get them to see it can’t continue,” she said. “My recommendation was we can’t open the pool again.”
Boase said all options for keeping the pool open were examined.
“If we could not sustain an adequate membership level given everything we did – and we did everything, like we brought in a small business consultant, put up beautiful signs, went door to door – if someone else can do it, God bless them. I’ll sign up,” she said.
The Palma Ciea Swim Club is listed by John L. Scott Realty, with an asking price of $74,900. Dana Burk is the realtor and can be reached at 503-409-5861. The property covers .45 acres, or 19,602 square feet. Photos on the John L. Scott site show some maintenance needs to be done, especially in regards to the removal of weeds.
Thorndike said she had been approached by a couple of people about the pool, including one who wanted to keep it as a community pool with lessons.
“I don’t know who will buy the pool,” she said. “Our thinking was the likelihood of someone buying it and keeping as a pool are pretty slim. I asked the city if they would like to take it over as a city pool. They don’t have the money. Some members will join other pools and some will probably just stop (swimming). With the costs to open the pool and the chemical, it was just prohibitively expensive.
“I would love to see it stay as a community pool,” Thorndike added. “That would be wonderful.”