The Woodcrest Recreation Association continues after recession

Steve Mirsen, Eastside Multimedia Director

Cherry Hill is home to over 10 swim clubs, but many have noticed that over past years, fewer people who call Cherry Hill home have been at the pools. The Woodcrest Recreation Association (WRA), better known as the Woodcrest Swim Club, is recovering from a many years long “membership recession.”

“The Great Recession of 2007 saw a dramatic decline in real estate turnover in our neighborhood,” said Leon Roomberg, President of the Board of Trustees of the WRA.

In other words, more homes or rented spaces in the area had a change of owners or tenants.

“There were also a number of families who reported that they dropped their membership due to financial hardship,” Roomberg said.

Typically, the swim club gains about forty members a year, mostly people who are new to the neighborhood. In the same year, around forty members are also lost, due to families, “aging out.” Some kids stop coming as they get older, and the ones who stay eventually move out for college. Many adults who come do so because of children; some also give up their memberships when their kids do. In average years, membership at the swim club remains steady. But a drastic amount of members moving away caused a huge drop in membership, and not enough new people joined to even out the loss.

“In 2005, we had 640 families,” said Roomberg. “By 2010, we fell to about 240 families. With membership increases every year since then, we are now just above 300 families…We have had membership increases every year, but we are still many years from regaining our former size.”

The WRA had to make changes in order to control the recession, and keep itself out of more financial danger. According to Roomberg, the changes were difficult at first, as much work that was done by employees prior to the recession became volunteer work for members. Members do volunteer maintenance during the off-season, help with closing and opening procedures at the season’s start and end, and do the club’s book-keeping. The swim club also hosted Cherry Bowl in summer 2014, which helped earn money to pay off debt, much of which was acquired from redoing one of the swimming pools and adding a heating system.

“By controlling expenses, we paid off our mortgage, [and we] are debt free,” said Roomberg.

In addition to leveling out debt, the swim club made improvements to the grounds and began new ventures to gain more money and create a better environment. This year, a new GaGa court was added, the old maintenance room was turned into a new game room, with air hockey, a pool table, a television and Xbox 360. “Flick n Float Movie Night,” was also restored, where a movie is projected onto a large wall, and members can bring floats into the water to watch. According to Roomberg, more improvements are also being planned.

The WRA is now in its fifth year of net membership increase. “No one anticipated the Great Recession,” Roomberg said. “But we weathered it, paid off our debts, and the WRA is as attractive as ever. The five years of membership increases have been encouraging and we look forward to a continuation of this trend.”