MANSFIELD - After 70 years of summer fun in the community, the Woodland Club is close to closing its doors.
A letter from the Woodland Club board to club members explained that due to lack of funding, the Woodland Club's pool will be forced to close on July 23. Board members include Josh Taylor, Brad Gray, Jeni Stewart, Erin Anderson, Annette Mangan, John Shaffer, Jason Moritz and Susie Brokaw.
"In order to keep our pool open until Labor Day, we will need to raise $30,000," the board stated. "Even if we are able to achieve this amount, the board wants the membership to understand the pool is beyond its life expectancy and would not be able to continue operating in its current condition."
A new pool would cost upwards of $300,000. Costs associated with keeping the pool open include operating expenses for lifeguards, chemicals and management.
According to board member Brad Gray, the Woodland Club’s pool was built not only for family relaxation, but also to hold competitive meets within the Greater Mansfield Aquatic Conference (GMAC). The GMAC still exists today, with the Woodland Eels hosting a number of swimming and diving competitions over the summer.
“If the kids are on the swim team that’s always fun for them,” Gray told Richland Source in 2015. "What you mostly find are families coming up here to swim; it’s typically not very crowded, especially late in the summer and in the evening you can come up here and you might be the only family.
"Saturdays are really packed, it’s very fun and very social and all the members are really outgoing.”
The board cited declining membership and a rapidly-aging facility as the reason for this summer's dire financial situation. For the past few years, including this one, the Woodland Club has received a little over 100 family memberships, which does not cover the costs to maintain the pool financially.
Because of this, board members have personally paid thousands of dollars over the years for maintenance to the club, including concrete work, utility costs, taxes and insurance.
"While trying to provide a suitable environment for families, our accounts have been drained paying for a facility that requires constant upkeep, repairs and regulatory compliances with the Health Department," the board stated. "We as board members cannot continue to personally pay for these expenses."
Members of the board recognized the importance of the Woodland Club to the community, recalling summers swimming at the pool or playing tennis. Maura Teynor, chief advancement officer at the Richland County Foundation, penned a blog about the importance of a community pool after attending the SXSW conference in Austin, Texas.
"Pools are important; they are a gathering place, they promote a sense of community, they improve health and well-being and they are a fun part of summer," Teynor said.
Teynor noted Mansfield has only one public summer swimming pool, Liberty Park. If the facililty closes, members of the Woodland Club pool would have their memberships transferred to either Walnut Hills or Clearfork swim clubs in Lexington.
The Woodland Club board stated its goal is to end the season on Labor Day and will stay open as long as possible, contingent upon receiving additional memberships and donations. The club created a GoFundMe page to accept donations that has raised $900 since June 15.
"This club has been a special place to the Woodland community for many years," the board stated. "Seeing the Woodland Club shut its doors is not what our board looks forward to."