Aquatic Park readies for summer season

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Opening weekend features free admission for service personnel, first-responders

Summer is coming! And that means fun in the sun and in the water. Staff members at The Colony Aquatic Park have been working hard the past few months in preparation for the annual throng of visitors that will soon descend on the facility.

The Public Swim Season at the park officially begins on Memorial Day weekend, May 27-29. The pool will be open from 1 to 4:50 p.m. each day. Military, police, and fire personnel will be admitted free with service ID during that time.

The Colony Aquatic Park

The Colony Aquatic Park has been around for 30 years. The facility boasts a fresh coat of paint following off-season improvements. It is located at 5580 North Colony Blvd.

Elise Knox, Aquatic Park Manager, said she’s already been seeing the signs of summer in the media.

“As soon as swimsuit commercials start showing up on television, I start counting them,” she said. “When we’re up to four commercials per day that have some sort of swimsuit in them, that’s when people start calling like crazy to ask about what’s happening here in the summer.”

Public swim for the summer begins on June 2 and runs through Aug. 27. The pool will be open from 1 to 6:20 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 1 to 4:50 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Weekday public swim includes two half-hour swim breaks for kids, giving adults free reign over the pool from 3 to 3:30 p.m. and 5 to 5:30 p.m.

With all those dates rapidly approaching, finishing touches to off-season improvements at the 30-year-old facility have been in full-gear the past few months. Visitors will likely first take notice of the aesthetic enhancements on the outside – namely a newly painted blue roof and colorful, inviting window panels.

Aquatic Park window screens

New window screens were recently installed at The Colony Aquatic Park on North Colony Boulevard.

Other completed or pending improvements include: new start blocks on the indoor pool; a new basketball goal; a water cannon for regulating water temperature in the outdoor lagoon; radiant heaters with timers in the dressing rooms; a new water fountain with filtered-water stream; and a variety of ongoing electrical maintenance work.

Much of The Colony Aquatic Park’s activities take place in the heated, indoor pool, which contains 165,000 gallons of water. It is 4-feet deep in the shallows, sloping down to 10 feet in the deep end. While not a full-length competitive pool, its size is very coach-friendly as it affords a more “personal touch” to instruction by enabling coaches to walk the entire distance end to end as students swim, Knox said.

Indoor Pool

The indoor pool of The Colony Aquatic Park.

Outside, the Aquatic Park features a “leisure lagoon” with two large, flat wings. “It’s the world’s best teaching pool,” Knox said. It has sets of steps on either side, a waterfall with a shelf, and a 4 1/2-foot area for games. “It’s great for a family party, as there are no surprises in depths. There’s room for both the little ones and the bigger kids.”

Other amenities at the Park include a children’s wading pool, an interactive Splash Zone, multiple shade structures, grills, lounge chairs, and a volleyball court. The various pavilions are available to rent for private parties.

Lagoon Work

Aquatic Park maintenance staffers Joe Bustos and Raphael Wolff clean the outdoor lagoon at The Colony Aquatic Park.

While public swim is obviously a big attraction, the Aquatic Park also offers a wide variety of swim lessons for all ages, as well as fitness programs for adults. A full listing of programs is available online through the Parks and Recreation Fun Times Catalog as well as at www.PlayTC.com.

Competitive swimming opportunities are also offered at The Colony Aquatic Park, with various degrees of intensity. The Hammer Heads swim team, for example, is a fully competitive team that takes part in meets throughout June and July. Other teams are available for intermediate and novice swimmers aspiring to learn more about swimming as a sport.

Naturally, safety is a huge component of everything that takes place at The Colony Aquatic Park. As Knox often says, “swimming is the only sport that saves lives.” All of the facility’s various features are laid out with safety in mind so lifeguards and staff have clean lines of sight, Knox said.

Red Cross methods form the core of the Park’s classes, lifeguard training, and day-to-day procedures. “All of our lifeguards, all of our instructors, all of our classes are Red Cross certified,” Knox said, adding that her staff and volunteers have combined for over 300 years of teaching Red Cross methods. The only exceptions are infant swim classes, the methods of which vary by instructor.

As a matter of routine, the Aquatic Park participates in the annual World’s Largest Swim Lesson (WLSL), an event created by the World Waterpark Association in 2010 that “serves as a platform to help the global aquatics industry work together to build awareness about the fundamental importance of teaching children to swim to prevent drowning,” according to its website. This year’s WLSL is on June 22.

Splash Zone

The Colony Aquatic Park’s interactive Splash Zone will be buzzing with activity this weekend.

Behind the scenes, the Park’s water quality maintenance systems are state-of-art. “We’re using the latest technology to monitor and automate much of our filtration systems,” Knox said. For example, when the system detects abnormal changes in water flow or chemical balance, it automatically alerts maintenance staff remotely so any problems can be addressed promptly.

The system also fine-tunes water quality and disinfection in ways not yet common at many public pools.

“People in backyard pools throw chemicals into a floating device and leave it. What we do is a couple of drops of chemical at a time, adding a little to the mix oh-so-gently,” Knox said. “Ultimately, we end up with less chlorine in our water than most people have their washing machines at home, largely because our primary source of water cleansing is ultraviolet light on all four pools. Most pools drip their chemicals but it’s not yet standard practice to have full UV treatment.”

The Park’s pump systems are also state-of-the-art, featuring variable frequency drives that enable staff to perform “soft starts and stops, which is much easier on the whole system, thereby minimizing the need for future maintenance,” Knox said. “If your pump is slightly oversized and run at a lower level, it’ll run more efficiently, build up less heat, and last longer.”

Water Tests

Head Guard Mike Taylor records data after performing tests on the Aquatic Park’s water quality.

The facility is managed year-round by two full-time staff. When the busy season arrives, 60 part-time staff plus more than 50 volunteers keep the Park running smoothly all summer long.

Many of the volunteers and lifeguards have been with the Park for years, Knox said, thanks in part to the Park’s Volunteen Program, which invites youth ages 12 and up to take a training class and serve as assistant swim instructors. For more info, contact Volunteen Coordinator Wanda Brown.

That so many volunteers and lifeguards continue to return to the Park each summer, year after year, is a testament to the Park’s community-based approach. Knox and her staff aim to build relationships with their patrons not only to encourage use of the facility but also to keep them invested in its future.

“We’re a tight crew,” Knox said. “We are firm believers that what we do is all about customer service. Anyone who comes through the door, we welcome as part of the family.”

For more information about The Colony Aquatic Park and its many programs, click here or call 972-624-2225.

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