The Heart of New Paltz Swimming
Moriello Pool has been the go-to place for New Paltz swimming. After experiencing maintenance issues, the pool recently received a $75,000 grant for repairs. It is set to open on Memorial Day weekend, but will it open in time?
Back in February, a letter appeared in the New Paltz Times written by Robert LaPolt, the founder and former president of the New Paltz Swim Team Association. In the letter, LaPolt wrote that “Over the years, the Seahawks have formed a bond with the community; it has its own culture, its own traditions — it has been building strong, dedicated young people to the thrill of competition and this was at Moriello Pool. This was and is the present.”
LaPolt also touched on the amount of swimmers to swim at Moriello, “Our enrollment over the years — from 2007-2012 with over 150 swimmers and from 2011 to 2016 we have had over 200 swimmers per year. The increase in the number of swimmers is a testimony to the success of the Seahawks at Moriello Pool and Moriello Pool only.”
LaPolt urged town officials to work together to repair the pool that sees about 30,000 to 40,000 visitors each summer. He said, “I exhort the citizens of New Paltz to dialogue with our elected officials to make sure this repair project is fully implemented to ensure a continuation of the Seahawks at Moriello Pool…30-plus years of swim team involvement at this pool must not be placed in jeopardy for any reason — political or otherwise.”
LaPolt and all the members of Moriello Pool got their wish. The pool received a $75,000 grant in April from New York State Senator John Bonacic. The grant will cover replacement liners in both the main pool and the kiddie pool.
While the town is hoping for the pool to be open to the public for Memorial Day weekend like it usually does, there seems to be some doubt that the pool will open at that time. If it doesn’t, the local swim teams won’t be the only ones to be put out: many more swim groups, day camps, athletes, residents and visitors will be denied use of this important town resource.
Delayed opening will also impact town coffers. In a typical summer, the pool generates “roughly $125,000-$130,000 in revenue each season,” town of New Paltz Supervisor Neil Bettez said.
The town has hired Renosys Inc.to replace the lining in the pool which was last replaced in 2000. Under a month away from the scheduled opening, the lining has not been replaced yet.
“We’ve been waiting on the lining to be replaced for almost three weeks now,” a Moriello Pool employee who requested anonymity stated.
Bettez has been involved with the maintenance for Moriello Pool and gave a timeline for the repair on May 8.
“Right now we are waiting to hear back from several masonry contractors with their bids to do prep and repair the concrete once we hear from them, I will accept one of them based on cost and availability. It will then take about 1 week to do the masonry work, two weeks to replace the liner, and up to a week to fill and balance the chemistry,” Bettez said. “Although we were hoping to open by weekends by Memorial Day and daily on June 24th when school is out and the lifeguards are available, we still think we can open before June 24th.”
If the timeline that Bettez gave is accurate, then the pool will not be open by the scheduled opening of Memorial Day weekend, it will take four weeks just to fill up and repair the pool.
Robert LaPolt’s son, Glenn LaPolt, is the current head coach of the New Paltz Seahawks swim team. Glenn grew up in New Paltz and even swam at Moriello Pool as a kid. Glenn doesn’t believe that the pool will open in time for Memorial Day weekend due to the lack of progress on the replacing of the pool liner.
“If I had to guess, I think the pool will be open by mid-June,” Glenn said. Last year, the pool didn’t open until July, which is a reason why Glenn believes it will open late again. The Seahawks had to make alternate plans and do “dryland” workouts for the first few weeks of their season. Despite the month without daily swim workouts, the team still won all its dual meets and clinched the championship, but not without a lot of stress to the team members, families and coaches, their members said.
Funding the pool is a tricky topic. “The pool never has enough money, the pool staff does all the work for the pool,” Glenn said. “The town will sometimes contribute depending on who’s running the town at the time.”
Glenn also mentioned how he swam at the pool as a kid. Many people, including Glenn, who were involved with New Paltz swimming over the course of their lives have been impacted by Moriello over the years. The pool opened in 1955, and the original pool was located in the current lower parking lot.
The New Paltz hallmark hasn’t always had the same name since its 1955 opening. The pool was named after Mike Moriello, a local farmer. In 1955, Moriello was killed in a plane crash while he was spraying his crops. The pool was renamed in 1956 in honor of Moriello.
Glenn LaPolt realizes the impact the pool has had on New Paltz swimming over the years, “Moriello is the beginning of New Paltz swimming, I think there’s a whole swimming culture in New Paltz that started here,” LaPolt said.
LaPolt thinks that not everybody in the town and village understands the impact the pool has had on New Paltz swimming. “People who didn’t grow up in New Paltz or swim in New Paltz don’t understand why so much money should be put into this pool even with the amount of people that come to Moriello in the summer.”
Other residents of New Paltz realize the impact that Moriello Pool has on the community. After posting on the New Paltz Facebook group a picture of the torn apart pool without a liner, the post received comments from 10 different residents of New Paltz.
Recently elected Village of New Paltz Trustee William Murray commented on the post by saying that, “We have three children and the pool is a necessity for family mental and physical health during the summer months,” Murray said. “Our kids meet with their friends and parents catch-up on the local news with theirs. It’s an affordable way to spend the day and everyone looks forward to it.”
Murray also discussed how he would like the pool to be open longer than it usually is, “I know this may be asking too much, but having a couple of September weekends open, would be terrific. We can have some hot days until the middle of the month.”
“It was one of the reasons I moved here!” New Paltz resident Jennifer Welles said. “My stepkids also only ever want to go there when they come in the summer, so if it doesn’t open they literally might not want to come visit.”
Another parent and New Paltz resident, Kristin Trenary, said “We go to Moriello several times a week, every week. My son took swim lessons there last year and is so excited to do it again this summer He is determined to learn how to ‘really swim’ this year! It is such a wonderful, important community space for my kids and I.”
Kristin Misak discussed how convenient the pool is being a New Paltz resident, “I live in the Village and love that I can bike to the pool, swim a mile and be back home in less than hour,” Misak said. “I won’t bother with the county pool because it necessitates driving and it takes longer to get to.” The Ulster County pool is located on 241 Libertyville Road in New Paltz.
It remains to be seen whether or not Moriello Pool will open on time for Memorial Day weekend. It also remains to be seen whether the local government will be willing to put in money to the pool, as these current maintenance issues have been needed for a few years. One thing that can't be denied is the impact that Moriello Pool has had on the people who have been involved on any New Paltz Swimming team.