Photo: Belmont Selectmen Chair Sami Baghdady and Underwood Pool Building Committee Chair Anne Paulsen cut the ribbon to open new Underwood Pool on Saturday, Aug. 8, 2015.
For Ellen Schreiber, the opening of the new Underwood Pool on Saturday, Aug. 8, was a bit like a dream come true.
“We’ve been working on this two years and you have a vision in your head of what it’s going to look like, what its going to be. Then to see it come real is … unreal, it’s surreal,” Schreiber told the Belmontonian.
“I’ve been coming by the site every other day to watch the progress for months and month, just watching it take shape, from the first holes in the ground to the water filling the pools. It was fantastic,” she said.
Just nine months after a groundbreaking on a blustery and frigid November morning, hundreds of residents took the opportunity to tour the $5.3 million facility with its two pools – one designed for smaller children and the other with a lap lanes and a diving board – a pair of bath houses, a modern pump house, increased landscaping and lot of amenities.
“This will be my slide,” said one young resident as she scaled the top rung of the new twisting slide that will send children (and some adults) into the children’s pool.
The new pool complex began three years ago through the urging from Peter Castinino, the retiring director of the town’s Department of Public Works. The project was funded with Community Preservation Act funds, money from Town Meeting and a successful debt exclusion in April 2014.
The project nearly collapsed in September 2014 when the original contractor abandoned the project requiring the building committee to raise $388,000 to meet the next lowest bid. It took only 45 days for the committee to raise a little more than $411,000 in October, in large part to the generosity of the Belmont Savings Bank Foundation which donated $200,000 and work by Schreiber who headed a community-wide fundraising campaign.
“We have a lot to celebrate today as we begin a new life of the Underwood Pool,” said Anne Paulsen, the chair of the Building Committee.
“It is the hope of the Building Committee that many generations of Belmontians will enjoy a respite on a hot day and lots of children will learn how to swim [at the pool],” she said.
The ceremony was a chance to fete the entire pool community, from town officials and entities such as the Community Preservation Commission to the Town Meeting, the Underwood family which supported the project, the architect (Thomas Scarlata of Bargmann Hendrie + Archetype, Inc.), general contractor (New England Builders and Contractors of Methuen) and the Underwood Pool Building Committee that shepherd the project to a successful conclusion.
Special praise was bestowed on Belmont Savings Bank’s CEO Bob Mahoney and Schreiber who joined forces to raise the $400,000 shortfall when the first contractor left the project.
“May I see you next time here with swimsuits on,” said Board of Selectmen Chair Sami Baghdady.
As a mother of two children who will use the pool, a member of the building committee, the person who spearheaded the last-minute funding and a recreational swimmer, Schreiber said the goal of the new pool was to make it a multi-aged pool with lap lanes, the slide, diving board, grass and sprinklers for the littlest kids.
“There are a few places where I have watched my two children grow up. It was a life saver when my kids were young because I would meet my friends here and have real adult conversations,” she said.
“With the new pool, we have a place where people can gather again. For me, it’s about community, a place where people can come together and everyone enjoys something,” said Schreiber.