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Cool pools are hot ticket

Thu., July 16, 2009

Aquatics facilities at Shadle, Cannon draw large crowds

Shadle Park’s new swimming pool – with its multiple slides, diving board and beach-like entry – is attracting capacity crowds with long lines and sometimes long waits to get inside.

“It’s so crowded you only get to stand there. You don’t get to swim,” said Hannah Hornbaker, 11, who lives in the Seven Mile area. “I got kicked in the face.”

Hornbaker and her friend Kaylee Levien, 11, weren’t so much there to swim as they were for the plunge down one of two towering water slides. They waited in line with dozens of other children.

Since the pool opened on July 6, it has drawn more than 6,000 swimmers – kids and parents – at an average of 800 a day.

The new pool at A.M. Cannon Park is seeing a smaller crowd of about 500 swimmers a day.

Parks officials said they are not surprised. In other cities, including Moscow and Asotin, pools with water park features have seen similar crowds at opening, said Carl Strong, aquatics supervisor.

“They have been a huge hit,” he said.

The pools also feature spray features for smaller kids and large, colorful umbrellas to shade supervising parents.

Demand may only increase as temperatures rise to the 90s through Saturday.

Strong said his staff has limited pool attendance to about 400 swimmers at a time, depending on how many lifeguards are on duty. The pool keeps a ratio of one lifeguard for every 50 swimmers.

When capacity is reached, the pool is closed every two hours and then reopened in a few minutes so that those standing in line get first chance at the next two-hour session. A $1 fee for children and $2 for adults is good for all day.

Spokane voters in 2007 approved $42.9 million in bonds for six pools, smaller stand-alone spray features at neighborhood parks and other sports facilities. Of the total, $28.8 million is being spent on pools.

Comstock and Hillyard pools are scheduled to open on Aug. 3. Witter and Liberty pools won’t be finished until September, so they might not open this year.

The pools require more lifeguards to supervise their variety of features, and the city is recruiting 30 lifeguards to staff Comstock and Hillyard.

Strong said he is competing for lifeguards with pools in Spokane County and at combined new YMCA and YWCA facilities.

He said he could hold a lifeguard-training class if he can’t find enough certified lifeguards.

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