The plunge has made a few concessions to creeping modernity, however. There is a tin-foil-like insulation overhead, squawk-boxes in the locker rooms, some new ceiling heaters, and two gigantic stopwatches for the team’s use.

As spacious, popular, and clean as the plunge is, manager Mackey thinks improvements can be made. Eliminating the chain-link fence that surrounds Belmont Park and consequently the plunge is a first priority. He feels the fence discourages people from seeking out the pool for swimming.

Knocking out the plunge’s front wall and replacing it with glare-proof glass (like UCSD’s pool), would allow swimmers to view the ocean and beach bathers to see the pool, perhaps drawing them in.

Installing a Jacuzzi was an idea whose time has come and gone. The cost of energy necessary to heat the spa would be considered an extravagance. In fact, the avalanche of publicity surrounding the East’s winter trauma prompted Mackey to remove his notice on the Park billboard that read, “Pool heated, 82 degrees.” Last week, in compliance with orders to reduce natural gas consumption, the water temperature was dropped to a brisk 72 degrees.

Each year, as the city council battles the rising costs of operating San Diego’s parks and pools, the plunge and its future seem in doubt.

With such a glorious past and a devoted following, even the hint of a possible closing at some distant date causes irritation and concern. “It’s a bummer,” says former champ Warren. “The trolleys are gone, the ferries are gone. We have to save something.”


Note: Yesterday the Mission Beach Plunge was closed. In an effort to conserve energy, the Public Utilities Commission ordered the heat for the pool and the building turned off. The Park and Recreation Department complied.

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