COLUMBIA — The sight of a brand-new, bright orange, 125-foot long, double-loop water slide at Oakland Family Aquatic Center is especially impressive to those who hover around 4 feet tall.
“It’s never been here before! It was all empty there,” Kaitlyn Bailey said, pointing to the concrete beneath the slide.
The pool opened at 10 a.m. Friday and the first in line to see the slide, which made its debut that day, were Lisa Bailey and her two daughters, Kaitlyn, 6, and Lauren, 5.
“We’ve been talking about it all year,” Bailey said.
Her daughters wiggled with excitement, chattering about the new fun they were going to have.
“I really, really, really want to ride it,” Kaitlyn said.
If you don’t own a season pool pass, it only takes $2.25 for children and $3.50 for adults for admission to the center and a chance to ride down the $180,000 water slide, which was funded through a Columbia parks sales tax.
Bailey and her daughters got to the aquatic center fifteen minutes before it opened, and her daughters’ impatience to take a ride was clear.
“They keep asking the lifeguard when they can go down,” Bailey said.
The girls were disappointed to learn that they couldn’t ride it until enough lifeguards were on duty to watch both the stairs leading up to the slide and the exiting sliders.
“They said we can’t go on it yet,” Kaitlyn said, frowning.
The girls weren’t the only ones who had to deal with hold-ups; the water slide’s construction took longer than expected because of rain delays.
To pass the time, Bailey encouraged her daughters to jump off the diving boards and play in the children’s water play area. That distraction lasted for a while, until a lunch of hot dogs and lemonade was needed to pacify them as noon rolled around.
Kaitlyn planned on being the first rider.
“If I get there before my sister,” she said with a mischievous grin.
Soon after lunch, the slide was manned with lifeguards, and it only took moments for a line to form.
Kaitlyn made sure not to run — it is a pool, after all — and ended up fourth in line.
“The other people could go first, one of them I met when I was playing so I let her go in front,” she said.
After a two-hour and 25-minute wait, the 15 second ride concluded as Kaitlyn splashed into the pool at the end of the slide.
“It was really fun. It turned so hard I flipped over,” she said.
In the end, Lauren didn’t quite meet the height requirement — four feet, two inches — to join in on her sister’s fun. Tears were shed, but she remained optimistic about next year’s possibilities. After all, she was able to wait this long.