KC water aerobics class to disband after decades due to pool closing

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It’s being called a “sad end of an era.”

On Friday, Sept. 7, a group of East Texans joined for the last time in a high-energy water aerobics class in the James M. Parks Fitness Center swimming pool at Kilgore College. Earlier this week, college administration announced the pool would close on Friday due to structural damage.

Water aerobics classes have been offered at the KC pool for decades. The early morning class, which met three times a week, gave senior citizens a way to enjoy exercise and fellowship with friends. Now, class members will have to find another location for their preferred exercise method.

“I’ve been active in it for eight years myself,” said Diana Ponder. “Some of these people have been there much, much longer. It’s just sad that it’s come to the end.”

Ponder acknowledged not much could be done about the building damage, caused by moisture in a building with inadequate ventilation. The college estimated repair costs at nearly $1,000,000. Still, she said, the class members will find a way to continue.

“Our two teachers are going to be moving to the Paula Martin Jones Center in Longview. One of our teachers already teaches a class or two over there. I think the biggest majority of our people are moving over to the Paula Martin Jones Center in Longview because that’s the closest indoor heated pool and it’s cheap,” Ponder said.

Another class member, Tea Burns, brushed away tears as she took photos of the final exercise session with her cell phone.

“I’ve been coming for 10 years,” Burns said. “I’m in tears. Most of us have been. We’ve become real close. We have luncheons every three months and a Christmas party every year.”

Burns confirmed some members will be attending water aerobics classes at the Paula Martin Jones Recreation Center and the Christus Good Shepherd Institute for Healthy Living in Longview. She said she had chosen the Paula Martin Jones Center because the heated pool was therapeutic for her rheumatoid arthritis, a feature she had previously enjoyed at the KC pool.

Health benefits were a major reason many members of the class enjoyed exercise sessions at the KC pool.

“It’s kept my diabetes under control,” Burns said. She described another class member in her eighties who suffered a fall in 2017. The woman’s doctors said her participation in water aerobics kept her from breaking any bones, according to Burns.

“We are there for our health. Everyone there, it’s for their health,” Ponder said.

KC will attempt to replace the water aerobics classes with other exercise options.

“The college has offered a chair yoga class to replace it. I’m sorry, that’s not the water therapy,” Ponder said. “A lot of those people have had back surgeries, shoulder surgeries. Their doctors actually tell them to come to that class.”

Ponder added the early morning aerobics class has become especially close after seeing each other three times a week for many years.

“That’s our regular bunch,” she said. “It’s just sad that we’ve had it so long and all of a sudden we’re not going to have it. Some people come from Henderson, New London, Gladewater, not just Kilgore. In that early class, we have people from all around.”

On Wednesday, an email statement from KC President Dr. Brenda Kays addressed the pool closing.

“As the KC Board of Trustees considered individual projects to be completed under the McKinstry contract, engineers discovered that the lack of ventilation in the pool area was causing the structure to degrade. The cost estimates to appropriately renovate and ventilate the swimming pool approached $1,000,000. After careful consideration, the decision was made to close the pool, effective Sept. 7, and instead dedicate resources to address the water incursion issues in the basement of the Canterbury Engineering and Science building. New fitness classes, including expanded Yoga opportunities, are being added as alternatives to activities that used the pool.”

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