About 50 Columbia residents gathered on a muggy afternoon Saturday at Douglass Park to rededicate the pool.
The ceremony celebrated the renovation of the nearly 70-year-old facility. The $299,000 project went better than planned, according to Park Services Manager Mike Griggs.
“We went in there and got it done in a timely manner,” he said. “We actually came out under budget, so we have money left over to fix other things, like the bathhouse.”
The changes will help with attendance, he said. “Last year we had 3,227 visitors, and this year if we have normal pool weather, we’re expecting closer to 4,000 or 5,000 people.”
Among those at the ribbon cutting were Mayor Darwin Hindman, First Ward City Councilwoman Almeta Crayton, Second Ward City Councilman Chris Janku, Griggs and Parks Director Mike Hood.
Crayton said the renovation was great for the city.
“It’s right in the center of town, and the kids are having a good time,” she said. Hood also enjoyed the day’s activities.
“We’ve had a real nice crowd,” he said. “If you could have seen the old pool, you’d know how nice this is.”
The changes include a brand-new gutter and filtering system, improved plumbing and mechanical systems, a refurbished slide and a brand new modular climbing wall. The climbing wall replaced the only diving board.
“It’s really good and a lot of fun,” said Roger Scott, 12, about the new wall.
Not everyone is thrilled, though.
“It’s nice for little kids, but not the older ones,” said Chavez Hatton, 16. “I liked the diving board better.”
Danielle Williams, 16, echoed the sentiment.
“I’ve been coming here nine years, but I probably won’t come as much anymore because they took the diving board out,” she said.
Griggs said the board had to be removed.
“We didn’t have the right slope in the pool for a diving board,” he said. “It needs to be about 12 feet deep for a board, and that would require a diving well, and it would cost a lot.”
According to Griggs, the most important improvement is the new gutter system.
“Last year we’d lose 6 inches of water a night from leaks,” he said.
The pool’s old pipes were buried beneath concrete and impossible to get to in the case of a leak. Now the pipes are under a gutter system that surrounds the entire pool, which will help with maintenance if there is a leak.
“We now have a modern facility,” Griggs said.
He said they hope to make even more improvements in the near future.
“The bathhouse is still the original and needs to be fixed, and we also have $75,000 to build a water sprayground,” Griggs said.
The water sprayground would be at zero-depth, with water canons and fountains for kids to play with.
Because it would be zero depth, lifeguards would not be required, allowing for a later closing time.