SARATOGA SPRINGS - Since 1935, the Victoria Pool at Saratoga Spa State Park has served the people of Saratoga and its countless visitors.

The first heated pool in the country, built with the support of Franklin Delano Roosevelt himself, is not just a spot to cool off on a hot day, it is yet another piece of Americana in a city filled with history.

Traditionally opening its doors to the public on Memorial Day, today the pool sits empty and alone. Spa State Park is active with maintenance workers, golfers, hikers, and other guests. But sitting on the deck of Victoria Pool, the only thing that can be seen is the blindingly white glare off the bone dry cement that for so many Memorial Days would have been home to splash fights, Marco Polo, and cannonballs.

Only two years after the state spent $1.5 million to renovate the pool and its surrounding facilities, and with temperatures approaching 90, Louise Goldstein, co-founder of the Save the Victoria Pool Society, can only wonder why the only two public pools in Saratoga Springs, including the Peerless Pool, also in Spa State Park, are not yet open - plans are to not open the pool until June 23, consistent with recent years.

Goldstein, 66 years old and a native Saratogian, has gone as far as to start a petition, which she plans to present to state senators, assemblymen, and parks officials this weekend at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center's grand reopening celebration, aimed at getting the pool open as soon as possible - within a week - she hopes.
If the pool was open, she says, "I guarantee you there would be 500 people here this weekend."

Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Spokeswoman Eileen Larrabee disagrees, though. According to Larrabee, between 2000 and 2003 when the pool opened on Memorial Day, attendance averaged as low as between nine-to-10 people a day. This was before renovations took place in 2005.

"We don't understand why the pool's not opening till the end of June," said Goldstein. "Why miss a third of the summer?"
Goldstein has gathered more than 100 signatures both in person and online through the Web site to "lobby our appointed and elected New York State Parks Department officials to stop letting the Victoria Pool sit empty," and that the pool "should be opened as soon as possible."

While Larrabee said she "truly appreciates (Goldstein's) advocacy and enthusiasm," it is simply not possible to open the pool right now.

With maintenance procedures currently underway at the pool, including painting the pool and resealing the deck.
Unfortunately, according to Larrabee, the time of year when these things are able to be done coincides with the time of year when the pool would, in the past, have been opened, causing the delay.

Goldstein claims that the reason for the delay in opening is that the Office of Parks is choosing to wait until schools close before opening, since much of their revenue comes from children.

This, she states, is "ridiculous" and that while the pool is closed during the early summer weeks, those same children are spending their weekends going to places like Lake George and The Great Escape and other area attractions when they could be coming to the Spa State Park and spending their money in Saratoga, boosting local economies rather than going elsewhere.

If they opened the pool now, Goldstein said, "it would pay for itself 10 times - a million times - over. ... Open that pool, now. It can be filled and opened within a week, and the weather could not be better."

Source: CARL DeNOVIO, For The Saratogian