By BILL SHEA
Messenger staff writer
The Fort Dodge aquatic center was a refreshing oasis for those who felt like they were being broiled during the simmering summer of 2011.
Hannah Zinnel, 10, left, and her friend Natalie Nordstrom, 11, both of Fort Dodge, share a float during the summers first Flick and Float at the Rosedale Rapids Aquatic Center. Guests could float or relax on lawn chairs while watching The Twillight Saga movie Eclipse. The center held several more of the evenings during the summer.
And it wasn't just a watery getaway for children. Total admissions to the center were 49,438, a number that includes lots of adults, according to Lori Branderhorst, the city's director of parks, recreation and forestry.
''This aquatic center isn't just about having a swimming pool for kids to splash around in,'' she said. ''This aquatic center is an important part of our active adult community.''
Last year marked the first full season for the aquatic center.
Branderhorst and her staff plan to build on the lessons of a season she described as a ''really successful summer'' to provide a good experience for swimmers this year.
She said this summer, swimmers will get a chance to be in the water after dark one night each week. She said the center will be open from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. on that day. The day on which those night swimming hours will be offered has not been determined yet.
Two feature films were shown at the center last year to movie-goers who watched from the water. This year, Branderhorst expects to show three movies, one each in June, July and August.
Doing a better job of notifying swimmers about things like unexpected center closures due to weather is a major focus for Branderhorst and her staff this year. She's encouraging people to sign up for text messages and emails from her department that will instantly notify them of changes at the aquatic center.
''If you want to be in the know, we'll give you the opportunity to be in the know,'' she said.
The only big physical change planned at the center this year is the construction of a picnic shelter near the playground.
The aquatic center at 32nd Street and 10th Avenue North is properly known as Rosedale Rapids/Fort Dodge Aquatic Center/Schmoker Family Park. The Rosedale Rapids name is a salute to the area's history as the former Rosedale farm. Schmoker Family Park honors Tom and Norma Schmoker, the Fort Dodge couple who donated the land to the city for the facility.
The aquatic center has these features:
The center was built to replace the old Expo Pool on North Seventh Street. That pool, which hasn't been used for three years, remains in place. City leaders have yet to decide what should be done with the property.
Replacing the basic rectangular pool with a water park featuring a variety of toys had been a dream of many in the community for about 20 years.
That dream started becoming a reality in August 2008, when city voters approved the borrowing of up to $8.95 million to build the aquatic center. That debt is now being paid off with property tax revenue.
After the bond issue was approved, city staffers, citizens and representatives of Water's Edge Aquatic Design in Lenexa, Kan., spent about a year designing the facility.
Construction began in the fall of 2009. Christensen Construction Co., of Pender, Neb., was the general contractor.
The center opened to swimmers for the first time on July 19, 2010, and stayed open until Labor Day of that year.
On May 30, 2011, it opened for its first full season, which ended on Labor Day.
During that time frame, only three full days were lost due to rain, according to Branderhorst.
''The weather was very cooperative,'' she said. ''It was a good season for pools.''
The 49,438 admissions included 24,719 who paid daily admission fees and 26,724 uses of season passes.
Branderhorst said the center generated more revenue than projected and cost less to run than what was anticipated.
The audited figures for the fiscal year that began July 1, 2010, and ended June 30, 2011, show that the center's revenues were $382,192.30. It cost $276,596 to run the center during that period.
Branderhorst also compiled financial figures for the past season at the center. She said that for budget purposes, the season began in October 2010, when season passes first went on sale, until Sept. 30, 2011. During that time, the center generated $338,692.47 in revenue. The expenditures incurred to operate it totaled $316,916.10, she said.
''I think it's been a terrific asset to the community,'' said Neven Mulholland, a Fort Dodge man who led the effort to get the 2008 bond issue approved. ''It's exceeded my expectations. I have heard nothing but positive comments, not only from people in town but also from people from out of town who have visited the center.''
Contact Bill Shea at (515) 573-2141 or firstname.lastname@example.org