Aquatic Center gives chance for fun, learning safety skills

Published 3:14 pm Friday, April 5, 2024

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Editor’s note: The following is the last of four stories tied to the facilities that are part of the upcoming referendum for the city of Albert Lea.

The original Albert Lea city pool opened at 321 James Ave. on Memorial Day in 1977 with the official dedication ceremony later on June 12. At that ceremony, then-Mayor O.H. Hagen and former Mayor Niles Shoff cut a ribbon to open the pool with dozens of eager swimmers jumping in right afterward.

The pool measured 50 by 52 feet with an additional 50-foot-square diving well. It held 450,000 gallons of water.

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The city rebuilt the pool into the current Aquatic Center in 1998 with a main pool measuring 162 by 47 feet, a diving well 34 by 38 feet, and a feature or kiddie pool 97 by 41 feet. The main pool holds 466,200 gallons while the kiddie pool holds 44,220 gallons. The center offers the following:

  • 226-foot water slide
  • Zero-depth splash pool with interactive play features
  • Main pool from 3.5 to 13 feet deep
  • Diving well with 1-meter diving board
  • Climbing walls
  • Shade umbrellas
  • Family bath house
  • Handicap-accessibility

The pool provides a refreshing respite from the summer heat for all ages. Grandparents receive free admission every Monday with one paid swimmer.

Admission for everyone is only $2 each on Tuesdays. Albert Lea Recreation offers playtime for caregivers with children ages 6 months to 3 years; lap swimming during the lunch hour three days a week for adults; water aerobics for swimmers ages 14 and older; and special events like Mermaids and Pirates throughout the summer. Season passes are available for individuals, families and caregivers.

The Aquatic Center also develops community-wide water safety through teaching children to swim, a critical lesson in a city built around lakes. Lessons are available for toddlers through pre-teens.

Altogether in 2023:

  • 350 students took swimming lessons
  • Daily admissions averaged 270 people
  • Visits totaled 17,861

The city is seeking $1.15 million to improve the Aquatic Center as part of the larger proposal for rec facilities. Slightly more than half — $580,000 — is to replace aging equipment that is failing after 25 years of use and install LED lighting to save energy. The equipment needing replacement includes the:

  • Water-heating systems for the main pool, sinks and showers
  • Electrical system
  • Play features in the kiddie pool
  • The other $570,000 would fund remodeling to:
  • Move the entrance so patrons may choose between the men’s, women’s or family-friendly/gender-neutral changing areas upon entry.
  • Enhance the freestanding bath house.
  • Expand the concessions prep area from 132 to 300 square feet.

Offer a walk-up window for concessions to public, especially those playing pickleball or basketball in the nearby courts or enjoying Frank Hall Park across the street. People would be able to purchase concessions without having to pay to enter the Aquatic Center.

Voters will decide April 9 in a special election whether to authorize up to $9.8 million for the Aquatic Center, Splash Pad, Marion Ross Theater and City Arena projects. For more information, including polling hours and places, visit