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  • Writer's pictureJoseph F. Berenato

Swim club readies for season

Hammonton Swim Club Vice President Vincenzo Penza, President Gabor Kiss and Suburban Swimming Assoc. of South Jersey (SSASJ) League Representative Shawn McCloud. (THG/Joseph F. Berenato. To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

HAMMONTON—Beginning Memorial Day weekend, the Hammonton Swim Club will once more be open for business.

“It’s our regular season, as we have every year. We go from Memorial Day to Labor Day; we even sometimes, if the weather’s still warm after Labor Day, we give a couple extra bonus weeks,” said Hammonton Swim Club President Gabor Kiss.

Kiss said that several improvements have been made since the 2020 season.

“The baby pool was just resurfaced last year. It was totally redone ... The Rubertons—Rob Ruberton Sr. and Jr.—gave us a generous donation to help us out resurfacing the baby pool. We’re in the process of repairing the basketball courts now. We did get two new donated backboards last year with adjustable nets, too,” Kiss said.

Vincenzo Penza, the club’s vice president, said that other improvements are in the works.

“We’re upgrading our kitchen this year. We have new furniture coming in; we have 50 new lounge chairs to go around the pool, which are great,” Penza said.

Kiss said that the club plans to continue some of its more popular activities, including their Dive-In Movie Theater, which is held every Wednesday night once school has been dismissed for the summer.

“You can watch it from the pool. It’s a giant screen at the end of the pool, with sound. We have people in the pool watching, as well as people around watching on the lounge chairs. You can watch it all the way across the entire pool; it’s a very large screen—it’s about a 30-by-20 screen. We also have food trucks there when we do movie night,” Kiss said.

The club also holds Sports Nights during the summer.

“We air Phillies games and Flyers games on the big screen,” Kiss said.

Penza said that one of the club’s new offerings this year is a time devoted specifically to children ages 8 and younger.

“We’re going to be opening at 10 a.m., Monday through Friday, all summer for parents with children 8 and under. Only the baby pool will be open to them. It’s exclusive for parents with children 8 and under. We found that, over the years, a lot of parents, their kids take naps, and a traditional noon opening is too late for them to really enjoy it, so we’re adding two hours of just the baby pool for them so members with young kids can come and chill out,” Penza said.

Kiss said that the Hammonton Swim Club also offers an open lap-swim program for “people who want to work out in the morning.”

“That is a program where you don’t need to be a member; you can just pay for whether you want to go five weeks or 10 weeks, from 6:15 a.m. to 7:15 a.m. It’s a fun way to get your exercise in. Membership is not required. You can pay per week, pay per session, pay as you go. It’s pretty cool, and a lot of people love it. We have a lot of people who work out in gyms and they want to do something extra, so they come and swim,” he said.

One of the draws of the club, Kiss said, is the quality of the water itself.

“The pools are saltwater and heated. Saltwater is softer water, because you’re not putting chlorine in the water; the chlorine is actually generated in the water, because we use sodium chloride, and the salt breaks it apart to form chlorine. We don’t pour chlorine in the water; it’s naturally formulated,” he said.

Another, he said, is the club’s keyless entry system.

“It’s great; people love it. If you come in, you just wave your fob and then it automatically signs you in. If you have guests, you tell us and they sign a book, then they pay their fee and their good to go. They have to sign the book for tracking purposes; the state requires that anyone who is not a member must be tracked ... We follow all CDC guidelines, as outlined for swim clubs,” Kiss said.

Penza said that the swim club’s competitive team, the Hammonton Stingrays, is also gearing up for the summer.

“The swim team is expecting a full season this year, which is real important ... We’re really excited to have a full season again. A lot of kids missed out on it last year, and it was really tough for everyone,” Penza said.

Shawn McCloud, the Suburban Swim Association of South Jersey (SSASJ) League Representative, explained further.

“We weren’t able to have a competitive season last summer, but we are full-speed ahead, and looking forward to getting back to normal, in terms of having a competitive swim league and swim season for the Stingrays this summer ... We’re hopeful that, with the governor and the various restrictions and safeguards that are in place, that we will be able to have a full, robust season this summer,” McCloud said.

McCloud said that practices will begin on June 1.

“We’ll practice in the evenings for a couple of weeks until schools are let out for the summer. In mid-June, we move to morning practices at the swim club, and we begin our competitions on Saturdays. From mid-June through the latter part of July, we’ll have meets over five weekends, culminating in the league championship, which will be hosted by the Vineland Dolphin Swim and Athletic Club this year. That’s from July 30 through August 1,” McCloud said.

McCloud said that participation with the Hammonton Stingrays is open to children under the age of 18.

“We have what’s called a Coach’s Squad for very young, developing swimmers. We have some kids as young as 5 or 6. The competitive teams go up to age 18. Any child, as long as they have the desire to do it, can participate on the swim team ... We’re open to swimmers and families from any community. We have kids on the team who live in Mullica, Folsom, Waterford, so you don’t have to be a Hammonton resident to participate with us and have a good time,” McCloud said.

McCloud said that being on the Hammonton Stingrays is “a great activity for the kids.”

“As much as it is competitive with us, it’s more about having fun. The kids are together, and it’s a social experience, and we try to make sure they’re having fun, first and foremost,” he said.

The one requirement for participating with the Hammonton Stingrays, McCloud said, is membership in the Hammonton Swim Club.

“But, this year we have a new option available: a sport membership. It’s a greatly reduced price; it’s not a full membership to the swim club, so it will make it financially easier for children to participate on the swim team,” McCloud said.

Penza said that membership rates for the club proper are the same as last year, but that they have added “a lot more options for members.”

“There’s a one adult option, there’s a two adult option, there’s one adult/one child, two adults/one child and two adults/one child. We’ve added a lot of options to make it more affordable for the many types of families that are out there. The rates are under the membership plan on the website. We started that last year, offering different price points. We have made it a lot more accessible for different size families,” Penza said.

Kiss said that there are other incentive programs, as well.

“We have early-bird memberships that end April 30. If families sign up and pay for their membership before April 30, they get a whole pack of free gift passes ... We have a sponsor program. If you sponsor a new member to the swim club, both of you save money on your membership,” Kiss said.

Kiss said that, despite the challenges presented by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the swim club thrived in 2020.

“A lot of clubs closed last year. We had people from other towns coming to Hammonton just to come to our swim club because their pools never opened ... we had some that came from Galloway and others from Vineland. It was great,” he said.

Penza concurred, noting that they hope the trend will continue this year.

“We think it’s going to be great again. We had a lot of new members last year. We’ve already got a lot of responses for people coming back and joining the club again. We’re extremely excited. People love it there. It’s a more affordable option than traveling to the beach every weekend, and it’s a lot of fun,” Penza said.

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