Aquatic center finally opens in Ames

James Heggen

Come on in, the water’s fine.

More than 100 people, including the mayor, most of the city council and other city officials, were on hand for the dedication and opening of the new Furman Aquatic Center, 1635 13th St., on Saturday.

There were clear skies, accompanied with 80 degree weather for the first official day of being open. Mayor Ann Campbell opened the dedication ceremony with words of thanks to the city council and parks and recreation commission, Donald and Ruth Furman, as well as city staff and Ames residents as a whole.

“It seems like not just yesterday in May of 2008 that we were at this very spot breaking ground, and here we are today ready to break the water,” Campbell said.

Campbell highlighted the partnership between the city, the university and the school district that made the construction of the aquatic center possible. She also said there were a number of environmentally friendly steps taken with the new center, including a solar station where cell phones and iPods can be charged.

Jane Acker, chairwoman of the Parks and Recreation Commission, talked about the path that led to the construction of the new facility. She said Ames began talking about the need for a new outdoor facility as far back as 1985.

“It took us a while to get there,” she said.

Donald and Ruth Furman, who gave $2 million toward the construction of the pool, were also in attendance at the dedication ceremony, along with members of their family and extended family, some who traveled as far as Arizona and Massachusetts.

“Thanks to all of you people for coming,” said Don, who turned 92 last month.

And with the Furmans in the center, and a team of city officials and little children helping, the ceremonial ribbon was cut, opening the aquatic center.

Many of the city officials and employees tested out the aquatic center, including city council members and Campbell.

Even Nancy Carroll, director of parks and recreation, tried out the 50-foot drop slide.

“That is a ride,” she said after being shot into the 13.5-foot depth of the 50-meter pool.

Tom Wacha, Ames city council member, also was in attendance and tried out the pool. Wacha was elected last November, after the bond was passed, but said he had supported plans for a new aquatic center and said it felt great to see it open.

“This is just a wonderful facility,” he said. “Ames really deserves this.”

Alisa, current member of the Ames Parks and Recreation Commission, and Matt Frandsen, along with their daughters Ali, 5, and Meredith, 2, made a 15-minute bike-ride to arrive at the opening day of the aquatic center.

“I think it’s great,” Matt said.

But the opening day wasn’t without its hiccups. The emergency response system was activated after a not very strong swimmer was pulled from the deep end after going on the drop slide. But Carroll said the boy was fine.