Jene Galvin. Photo provided


Critics protest Cincinnati Symphony's decision to replace historic swimming pool with music venue, questioning respect for pool's history and legacy. Suggestions for alternatives raised.

That鈥檚 my advice to the groups shaming the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra for turning its new property that straddles Anderson Township and Cincinnati to the east into a huge, modern, multimedia music venue at the expense of an old swimming pool that opened before we were all born.

The protestors claim that the Symphony board shouldn鈥檛 ignore the pool鈥檚 history, legacy and purpose in 2024, and they鈥檙e trying to damage the orchestra鈥檚 image as leverage to get their way.

Never mind, they say, that the amusement park had an ugly racist history only until local hero Marian Spencer and others bravely integrated it in the mid-1950s.聽

But that鈥檚 not the only point. Look, the Coney Island property until just a few months back was owned by a private family. And just using common sense and modern trends with water parks, you鈥檇 think that decaying infrastructure, insurance costs, staffing, food services, daily maintenance, regular Ohio River floods and inflation put the operation in the red recently.

So, the family sold the property to the Symphony so its Music & Event Management, Inc. (MEMI) profit-making arm can create a massive world class music venue that will bring bigger and more major acts to our region. And common sense also says MEMI鈥檚 business plan needs lots of space, including Sunlite Pool, Moonlight Gardens and maybe even Lake Como. For the Symphony, this seems to be a simple business deal.聽

But what about those people with their summer memories? Are they entitled to have whoever buys the property operate what could be a white elephant swimming pool? Of course not. This is America, the land of private property and free enterprise.聽

But wait, there is something the protestors can do. And there are several models right here in Cincinnati in the Clifton neighborhood. Two groups there organized, fund raised, sought investors, created legal nonprofits with boards to save their dear memories 鈥 the Esquire Theatre and the old IGA grocery store.

In other words, the Save Coney folks can seek a purchase meeting with MEMI to take on the pool themselves and be willing to pay the debts if it, in fact, isn鈥檛 profitable and won鈥檛 be ongoing.聽

But keep in mind that the Clifton Market, organized by neighbors as a Co Op, recently failed. Although, a Clifton businessman bought it and is committed to redeveloping it as a mini鈥揓ungle Jim鈥檚. But that citizen group had to deal with its experiment鈥檚 debt. On the other hand, a band of neighbors that became the Clifton Theatre Corp is still making a go of that movie venue. So, the results of citizen takeovers are mixed.

But Sunlite Pool, well, that鈥檚 a different kettle of fish or maybe even grizzly bears. Its claim to being the world鈥檚 largest recirculating pool, one built in 1925, would be an epic undertaking, which is why citizens arrogantly demanding that the Symphony owes them, or history, or honor, is unreasonable boarding on childish.聽

Like it or not, the big swimming hole in the ground is probably destined for a concrete fill up and parking stripes, because it may be that without such parking expansion, bigger crowds can鈥檛 be accommodated. Several summers ago, I saw the Grateful Dead at River Bend and had to park on dirt and walk what felt like miles to the front door.聽

Of course, no protest group is going to buy and run that old summer place, but there are several other things they could do to replace the pool鈥檚 void. Why not organize an effective Cincinnati advocacy group to fund and open all summer Cincinnati Recreational outdoor pools, including finding and training lifeguards willing to staff those inner-city pools? Or since Sunlite Pool actually rests in Anderson Township, lobby the Anderson Township trustees to follow the lead of several nearby suburban communities to build a large tax-funded centerpiece swimming pool in its redeveloping Anderson Towne Center area. Anderson has been largely quiet on this whole Sunlite Pool controversy.

In the meantime, let the Symphony be. Or at least let them build an economy-boosting music monster we鈥檒l all be proud of. Who knows? Maybe Beyonce and Taylor Swift will team up for its grand opening.聽

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