MANSFIELD — It’s been five years since the Woodland Club nearly closed for good.
Now, the woman who led the charge to keep it open is stepping down from the board.
Woodland resident Dawn Kitchen is the outgoing board chair this year, but remains in an advisory role. Husband and wife Maria and Jordan Phillips are taking the reins as co-chairs.
“When we realized that they were struggling with keeping it open, we definitely wanted to get involved and do what we could because it’s such a valuable resource,” Maria said.
It’s a full circle moment for Kitchen. She’s still a big supporter of the pool, but ready to see someone else take the lead.
“About five years ago, I took over because the old board was exhausted,” she said.
“It’s time for this board that kind of saved the pool to move out and let new people come in and and make some changes and give it a fresh set of eyes.”
The Woodland Club is home to a six-lane, 50-yard swimming pool with a diving board, a baby pool, a deck for sunbathing and a pickle ball court. It’s the home pool of the Woodland Eels, a children’s swim and diving club and member of the Great Mansfield Aquatic Conference.
The club almost went under in 2018, when its then-board announced it would close that July due to a lack of funding.
A group of pool members rallied to raise the funds necessary to keep it open. They created a Facebook page and advertised membership specials, solicited donations and created advertising contracts with local businesses. They formed a new interim board to oversee the pool’s future.
With a new influx of revenue, the board began critical renovations. The pool and the heating system were both in need of repair.
“When we first took over, the gas lines were completely full of holes and Columbia Gas was giving us quotes in the tens of thousands to fix it,” Kitchen said.
The pool was loosing so much water that Kitchen said it looked like a waterfall inside the pool’s underground operating room.
“That’s costly to fix,” she said. “But if you don’t fix it, you’re spending all that money in water, and chemicals and heat that’s going down the drain.”
A friend of the board agreed to fix the issues for a lower price, saving the pool management thousands of dollars. Volunteers worked to address smaller issues with the heater and sprinkler system.
The pool also modernized with a new website and Facebook page. The concession stand expanded and began to accept credit cards.
The pool began offering more community events like “Dive In” movie nights. Wednesdays at Woodland Club featured weekly attractions like a balloon artist or sidewalk chalk art competitions. The pool even brought in live music and food trucks on designated evenings.
Most importantly, the pool continued to advertise that members no longer have to reside in the Woodland neighborhood. In fact, they don’t even have to reside in Mansfield.
Kitchen and Phillips believe many people still don’t realize those rules exist, despite being changed years ago.
“As long as we attract members, the pool is definitely sustainable,” Maria said. “I hope that we can just keep it open and keep it growing, keep gaining members, keep making it welcoming for people.”
Work to improve the club continues. Maria recently spearheaded an effort to repaint the tan pool house with bright blue stripes in honor of the Woodland Eels.
The board is also considering the future of its clay tennis courts, which are costly to maintain and don’t see much use. Kitchen said one option may be to install turf and make an area where kids can play soccer or flag football.
Smaller goals include buying new lane ropes for the swim team, sprucing up the locker rooms and hanging a decorative banner with the eel mascot.
Those projects will depend on how much revenue the pool raises in the years to come.
After an increase in members over the last few years, Kitchen said she’s a little worried about membership counts going into the season. About 120 families have signed up so far.
“I’d love to see another 40 members,” Kitchen said.
The pool is currently running a sale on memberships through June 1. Individual memberships are discounted to $200; dual memberships to $300 and family memberships to $400.
Members can also bring guests into the pool. Adult visitors pay $10 per day and guests under 18 pay $5. The pool now accepts credit cards for entry and at the concession stand.
The Woodland Club is open Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. For more information, visit www.woodlandclub.com.
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