Excitement was in the air Wednesday afternoon at the Penticton Community Centre as about 40 young swimmers from the KISU swim club became the first to dive, jump and, in one case, cannon-ball into the $23.3 million facility’s new pool.
The team swam laps in the new 10-lane, 25 meter lap pool as the PCC’s aquatic staff ran through its first shift under the pool’s new life guarding protocols, procedures and rules.
“It is a really nice pool,” said seven-year KISU member Matthew Koster,13, from the water. “The deck is a lot nicer than the old one.
“I think the best part of the pool is that it is now going to have 10 lanes so it won’t be as long between races at swim meets. Or at practices we won’t be forced into a couple of lanes.”
KISU swim-coach Tina Hoeben said she likes how much room the new pool offers to users and to viewers above.
“I think it is awesome,” she said. “They have done a very good job with it.”
Alicia Schrank, 6, and her sister Olivia, 4, asserted that the vibrant and frolicsome appearance of the new leisure pool looked like an amusing place to occupy one’s time.
“This is the best pool,” concluded the elder Schrank. “It has a big hot tub and it has a little thing where you can have a slide and go, ‘Weee.’
“It also has a thing you can sit on and put your feet in the water and feel the lumpy lumps.”
The centre will host a ribbon-cutting opening celebration tomorrow from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. with tours of the facility.
Then, come Monday, June 6, the pool will have open public swimming for the rest of the month, Monday through Friday 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. and weekends noon to 8 p.m.
PCC aquatics coordinator Kerry Maguire said it will take her and her 23-person staff — currently made up entirely of the old pool’s crew — some time to work out programming, scheduling and staffing for the new facility.
Starting off slowly with only public swims and only using returning lifeguards, Maguire said the pool will progressively add more programs and staff throughout the summer and into the fall.
“Come September we are hoping to add back most of the traditional programs but we will have to see,” she said. “We have to live in it for a while to see how it is going to work best for us.”
City recreation manager Dave Lieskovsky said he expects the new leisure pool with its warmer shallower water, three lap-lanes, lazy river, bubble pit, umbrella and deck sprays and other playful features, to be quite popular with the public.
“This leisure pool was specifically designed for the needs of Pentictonites,” he said. “What is good about it is that we do have the play elements within the pool but there is a lot of programmable space here too.”
Lieskovsky said one of the most important upgrades in the new facility is its accessibility for people with mobility issues, as now both the two pools and the hot tub feature beach-like access where one can gradually move down a ramp into the water using a railing.
And the water itself, he said, will be much cleaner with less of a chlorine smell to it, as the facility has been equipped with state-of-the-art filtration and disinfectant systems.
However, Lieskovsky said he thinks the most dramatic difference, besides the extra space, between the new pool and the old one is the amount of natural light that now pours in through the huge glass window glazings.
Those wanting a historic reminder of just how dingy, dark and outdated — as if located in a medium-security prison — the old swimming pool area use to be, need only look at the three five-by-seven panels of glass in the north-west corner of the natatorium, the only source of natural light the old aquatic facility used to feature, Lieskovsky pointed out.
“The environment here is more friendly and much more attractive,” he said. “The natural light is just overwhelming as are the phenomenal views from the second floor.
“People are going to love it.”