Beating the heat

Published 9:54 am Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Aquatic Center provides relief from the heat and fun for many families. -- Nya Lony/Albert Lea Tribune

The Albert Lea Aquatic Center opened for the season Saturday, but on Monday, there was a surprise for swimmers.

“Attention swimmers, because it’s so hot out, we’re going to be staying open until 8 tonight!” announced manager Chris Allison.

Joy at the news resounded in high-pitched screams from the excited children. With temperatures in the 90s, the extra hours in the cool waters were welcomed.

Aquatic Center Manager Chris Allison announces the pool will be open an extra hour due to the high temperatures.

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At the end of last season, many of the pool’s features had been revamped. Both pools were sandblasted, then repainted with a brighter blue. The buildings were tuckpointed, and the slide was equipped with a new gel coating. According to Albert Lea Parks and Recreation Director Jay Hutchison, this series of renovations is done about every 10 years to keep the facility at its best.

The gel coating on the 226-foot slide was the last renovation to be completed. The slide opened Saturday to a long line of eager faces.

“I like the slide because you go so fast,” said Levi Hanson, 11. “I’ve already been on it four times today.”

According to Allison, the water on the slide had to be slowed down because the gel coating made it too fast. He said safety is one of the most important concerns, and the pools are overseen by a staff of lifeguards.

“I’ve been doing this for about four years,” said lifeguard Randi Johnson. “Saving lives is my favorite part of the job. Just yesterday another lifeguard, Chelsea Petersen, saved someone from drowning.”

Levi Hanson completes his fourth ride on the newly gel coated slide.

When all of the safety precautions are followed, everyone can have a fun experience at the Aquatic Center.

“I like seeing the kids really happy,” Allison said. “The pool was really fun when I was little and watching them reminds me of that.”

There are a number of new programs available this season. Pool Crashers is an event limited to teenagers on June 9, July 14 and Aug. 11 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. for only $2.

“Pool Crashers is just teens, so there are no little kids or adults,” Allison said. “It’s just their time to have fun.”

Free swim days are funded by Freeborn County Public Health along with a grant from a Statewide Health Improvement Program through the Minnesota Department of Health. The dates are June 18, July 16 and Aug. 13 from 1 to 7 p.m.

Play Day at the Pool started in 2010 as an event for the whole family. One of the features of this event is Power 96 broadcasting live from the Aquatic Center. Play Day at the Pool is from 1 to 3 p.m. July 29.

“We’ve got tons of games set up for big kids and little kids,” Allison said. “Throughout the day we sell raffle tickets for great prizes. Last year we gave away tickets to Noah’s Ark and things at the Mall of America. We had great sponsors that made it all happen.”

Other programs offered by the Aquatic Center include Two Dollar Tuesdays, Splash With Me, which is for children ages six months to three years, swim lessons, Doggie Dip and water aerobics.

Eager kids wait in line for the slide which opened June 6.

“I definitely recommend taking water aerobics,” Allison said. “It’s so much fun and the teacher, Andrea Olson, is great. She’s just so energetic and everyone has great things to say about her.”

With new renovations and programs, the Aquatic Center, according to Allison, is the place to spend your summer vacation. The pool will be open for about the next three months. There is no definite closing date for the season.

“It all depends on staffing and how the summer goes,” Allison said. “We still encourage everyone to come out and have fun.”

Public Swimming Hours

  • Weekdays: 1 to 6 p.m.
  • Weekends: 1 to 7 p.m.

Daily Admission

  • Children 2 and under: $1.25 each
  • 3-17: $3.25 each
  • 18 and older: $3.50 each

Group rates are available for nonprofit organizations. To make advance reservations, forms are available online or call Jenny Davis at 507-377-4370