Aquatic Center opens Saturday

James Heggen

It’s been a quite a journey.

The Furman Aquatic Center opens Saturday, and for the city, it’s been a long time coming.

Nancy Carroll, director of parks and recreation, said talks for a new aquatic center began when numbers for the only outdoor pool in Ames, Carr Pool, began to drop. Carroll said in its prime, Carr Pool was having about 50,000 to 55,000 visits a summer. However, Carr Pool, which was built in the 1920s, saw its numbers start to drop off with the construction of aquatic centers in surrounding areas such as Nevada, Boone, West Des Moines and Clive, Carroll said.

“People, I think, wanted a different experience,” she said.

These different centers started appearing in these communities in the past 10 or 15 years, she said. Carr Pool saw its numbers drop to about 23,000 visits.

In Nevada, which had a smaller pool comparable to Carr Pool before it built its aquatic center, had about 15,000 visits a summer, she said. When the new aquatic center opened, that number jumped to about 60,000.

“People’s desires have changed over the decades,” she said. “They’re looking for the fun factor.”

Carroll said the city expects to see about 80,000 visits with the Furman Aquatic Center.

But the issue for Ames is nothing new. Carroll said a bond failed as far back as 1991 that would have included an aquatic center adjacent to some youth soccer fields. In 2005, there was a proposal for a “Rec Plex,” which had been proposed to be built with the new Ames Middle School on Mortensen Road. This complex would have included an outdoor aquatic center and an indoor facility, along with gym space and a fitness center.

Carroll said the mindset then was that the need for the facilities was still there, but people didn’t want to pay for everything all at once. So instead, they decided to separate the proposals, and the bond for the Furman Aquatic Center passed with 76 percent voting in favor.

Some of the features of the new center include a zero depth entry pool, a lazy river and a 50-meter pool. It also has two tube slides, a drop slide and a family slide.

Carroll said they came up with what to feature after touring newer facilities in Iowa and in the greater St. Louis area, as well as hiring a consultant with experience with these types of aquatic centers.

“I would suggest we got fabulous input,” she said.

Caroll also said they tried to please all ages when designing it.

“The fun factor was a driver for us from day one,” she said. “We tried to carve out a fun factor for each age demographic.”

The Furman Aquatic Center’s ribbon cutting ceremony begins at 11 a.m. and open swim begins at 1 p.m. Saturday.