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Aquatic center almost ready to make a splash

Posted: April 19, 2011 - 9:47pm
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Amah Curry of McGraw Construction vacuums the deck in the new Dimond Park Aquatics Center Tuesday. The center is scheduled to open May 24th.   Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Amah Curry of McGraw Construction vacuums the deck in the new Dimond Park Aquatics Center Tuesday. The center is scheduled to open May 24th.

The water is bubbling at the new Dimond Park Aquatic Center and it is getting ready to open with a splash.

Step through the front doors and blue and teal swirls will guide you to the front desk, locker rooms and the pool area. The idea behind the swirly floor, besides that it looks cool, is visual cue directional communication.

Construction workers are putting on the finishing touches and the city’s new aquatic manager, Kathrin Millhorn, expects them to reach substantial completion status today — or by the end of the week at the latest.

Water is filled in both the eight-lane, 25-yard lap pool and the recreational pool. This is bigger than the city’s Augustus Brown pool, which has six lanes. Water temperatures will be maintained at temperatures similar to Augustus Brown — at 88 degrees in the recreation pool and 81 degrees in the large pool.

The recreational pool features a lazy river, funded with a grant from the Rasmuson Foundation. Inside the lazy river is a central circle — which when the current is turned on becomes a vortex. Millhorn said morning classes will be offered for walking in the lazy river.

The rec pool also contains a bubble bench, tumble buckets and a ground-level water slide that shoots water out the sides.

There are also two large water slides for riders taller than 48 inches. Millhorn warns patrons in advance that swim gear with rivets or any metal won’t be allowed on the slides.

All of the water features won’t be turned on all the time, Millhorn said. There will be a schedule of when different things are available.

The whirlpool, which was a late add-on, won’t be available at all until later this summer, however the sauna is ready to hot-rock.

Millhorn likes the design of the features area and small lap pool for teaching little children to swim. It has a zero-impact entry and the bubble benches will give them a place to sit or stand as they watch and listen to the instructor. The lap area in that pool is also smaller than the lanes in the large pool, which Millhorn believes will keep the children better focused.

Dimond Park features 300-person capacity bleachers, mechanically operated. When the bleachers aren’t out, the facility plans on having mechanical bikes and walking machines out in front of them.

The scoreboard offers features beyond tracking times, it also has the ability to show video. Millhorn said if the swim team had the extra equipment, it could show instant replays or freeze-frame finishes. As for the recreational side of things, they plan on having “swim-in” movies. She’s watched a disk of movie clips that came with the scoreboard as a sample and, while it isn’t the most high-tech piece of equipment they could have invested in, the picture “doesn’t look too bad.”

So, while the last few coats of paint are being applied and a few light fixtures are being fixed, Millhorn and the pool manager are working on the hiring process for lifeguards. Millhorn said once the staff is hired they will begin training. The difference for any staff who have worked at Augustus Brown will be in the water features and larger facilities. Millhorn said they’re still planning on where they’re going to position the lifeguards so they can see everyone. The lap pool has a maximum capacity of 101, the recreational pool 114.

Millhorn said they have a temporary certificate of occupation, which means they can work out of the administrative offices but can’t work on the pool decks until they’re fully certified. She expects the pool equipment to arrive April 27 and hopes to have staff in place to work on unpacking.

Millhorn started as aquatic manager three weeks ago, and was the assistant pool manager at Augustus Brown for several years, save the past two.

As for the water testing and safety issues raised a couple months ago about Augustus Brown, Millhorn said there is monthly testing ongoing at both facilities and testing is reported to the Department of Environmental Conservation.

She said David Lewis, former 30-year Augustus Brown pool manager came back a month ago and is helping out and making sure everyone is doing water testing appropriately. He also is working with a contractor at Dimond Park to make sure all the chemicals are being properly added.

The city made sure to bring someone in who was well versed in pool maintenance and reporting when the prior aquatic manager vacated the position, Millhorn said. She added that the new Dimond Park pool manager David Chase is also a certified pool operator.

People can expect to break out their swim gear officially for Dimond Park on June 4 — when it will have its grand opening. Millhorn said there will be free swimming offered that day with details to come later on how people can participate. She also anticipates a “soft opening” on May 24 with limited hours.

The aquatic center was initially supposed to open in January. A December update anticipated an opening in March or April. Millhorn said she isn’t sure what caused the delay. She believes it was the addition of two lanes in the lap pool and add-ons related to the whirlpool.

Early Bird Passes will be available through Parks and Recreation until June 4 and those passes allow admission to both facilities. More information about passes can be obtained by calling the department at 586-5226.

• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at sarah.day@juneauempire.com.

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