JOPLIN, Mo. —
Higher admission prices for the Schifferdecker Family Aquatic Center did not seem to cause hesitation for the hundreds who lined up Saturday to cool down at the grand opening of the expanded pool.
With temperatures already near 80 degrees for the 1 p.m. opening, 350 paid to enter the 670,000-gallon pool.
New water slides, diving boards and fountains were quickly packed as swimmers looked to beat the heat. Chris Cotton, Joplin Parks and Recreation director, said that the early crowds were not a surprise to park officials after heavy rains delayed the $5.3 million pool’s opening on Memorial Day weekend.
“Even with the delayed opening, we are excited because we are only going to keep getting more people to come in as temperatures continue to climb all summer,” Cotton said. “People have been coming here for over 80 years to swim in the pools that have been here, and we have made it bigger than ever. This is a special project that we believe is moderately priced compared to our area competitors.”
Admission has risen to $5 for those 16 and older, $4 for 3-15, while children younger than 2 get in free. Last year, prices at the old pool were 75 cents for children and $1 for adults. Even with the considerable jump in price, many of those who turned out were attracted by the new features. Crystal Quintana, of Joplin, brought four kids with her for the opening day.
“We had came to the old pool and that was great to have, but this is a lot bigger and is a real water park instead of just a pool,” Quintana said. “This price is worth it on the improvements alone.”
Eric Schroeder, of Joplin, was a lifeguard in his teens during the ’80s at the old pool. Looking back as an adult, the expansion was something that he would have never considered then.
“We had a kiddy pool and a big pool, which got the job done, but we had nothing like this here in town,” Schroeder said. “Even though this is targeted for the younger crowds, this is still a place a family can come to have fun.”
Paul Bloomberg, recreation manager, said the park’s expansion has also increased the amount of staff needed to operate the pool. Currently, the aquatic center employs 35 trained lifeguards, four managers and seven cashiers. The lifeguards receive 30 hours of training before becoming Red Cross certified.
“It has definitely been a big increase of workers, but I feel that the amount of training and their responsibility will make sure that we have a safe environment,” Bloomberg said.
The pool will be open 1 to 6 p.m. daily, with an extended family swim scheduled for Friday nights from 6 to 8 p.m.