The pool needed renovations, lacking any sort of upgrade since it was built in the 1950s. While still in office, Onorato allocated $1 million for the renovations, and in recognition the new pool will be named in his honor. On September 16, a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the club, located on 30th Road, will officially open the George Onorato Aquatic Center.
“It was first discussed about three years ago,” said Terry Hughes, executive director of the club. “We were having major problems with the pool.”
Hughes said the tiles were gutted, ceiling renovated, and new lighting was installed. He said all of the work was funded by the $1 million Onorato allocated to the project during his last term in office.
After searching for and eventually hiring an architect and builder, the club started the renovations in January 2012 and finished the project over the summer.
While the ribbon cutting is a ceremonial opening, the pool itself has been utilized by children in Variety programs for six weeks over the summer. When asked what the reactions where to those who used the new facility, Hughes said that parents tell him “the kids love the pool” and that most of them don't want to get out.
“There aren't a lot of indoors pools in Long Island City and Astoria,” said Hughes.
This is the second time that Onorato has impacted the community through Variety. Hughes said that the former senator helped physically build the club when he was in the bricklayer's union in the 1950s.
With an eye toward the future, Hughes said the club is looking for ways to renovate the entire building, especially the gym. However, for now, he is pleased with the renovations to the new aquatic center and the programs, which are open to everyone from infants to seniors, that come with it.
“This allows us to teach and have swimming as recreation,” Hughes said.