Excitement builds for new pool

By RICHARD LUKEN
Register Reporter

Register/Richard Luken
Luke Bycroft, left, Iola recreation director, and recreation program coordinator Brad Yoder sit atop a pair of new water slides, one of the more prominent features of the new Iola Municipal Pool, which will open Memorial Day.

As the days tick down, the sense of anticipation builds.
“I’m not much of a swimmer, and even I’m getting excited,” said Luke Bycroft, director of the Iola Recreation Department.
On Memorial Day — 23 months since the old Iola Municipal Pool was essentially destroyed by the 2007 flood — its replacement will open to the public.
“I think everybody’s excited,” Bycroft said. “As people get a chance to see the pool, they’re going to be impressed.”
The new pool, while smaller, offers several more features than its 70-year-old predecessor, including zero-depth entry, a “tumble bucket” spray feature in which buckets fill with water and dump on children below and a small children’s slide.
Off to the side are a pair of detached water slides. One has a winding route, the other is built solely for speed.
A smaller pool means more deck space for sunbathers, with a number of shaded areas for those seeking refuge from the sun. South of the pool is ample parking.
The driveway surrounding the pool also is being changed. City crews have torn out the lane that passes the pool to the west so that traffic can be rerouted around the aquatic center.
And then there’s the newly refurbished bathhouse, with rebuilt changing rooms, a concessions area and a room that can be reserved for pool parties or other gatherings. The bathhouse also has a room for lifeguards and an office with full view of the entire pool.
The pool includes regulation swimming lanes and an automated timing system to accommodate swim team competitions.
“I really like having the slides detached from the rest of the pool,” Bycroft said. “It makes it much safer for those on the slide and those in the pool.” Another advantage is only one lifeguard is needed at the slide. The old pool slide required two.
Bycroft spoke about the new pool’s size and an optical illusion of sorts for those who pass by to the north.
“It looks a lot smaller from there, but once you get into the pool you realize just how big it is,” he said. “It’s plenty big enough.”
Bycroft expects large crowds early in the summer, particularly on opening day.
To help ensure a safe opening day, three pool managers, Muffy Fehr and Cari and Reine Loflin, will oversee a crew of 14 lifeguards and six cashiers.
Construction at the pool is virtually complete. Crews painted the floor and walls this week between rain storms. Friday’s storms cleared out in time for crews to put the finishing touches on the painting, adding stripes for competition lanes. The pool will be filled at the end of next week.
“The water will be chilly for a while,” said Clark Waage, co-owner of Continental Pools, Inc. of Gardner, the general contractor in charge of the pool’s construction. “It always is, particularly since it hasn’t gotten that warm yet.”

WAAGE SAID he hopes Iolans are as proud of the new pool as he is certain to be.
“For what the city spent, to get a pool like this is a tremendous deal,” Waage said of the $1.9 million price tag.
The old pool and bathhouse were built in the late 1930s as a Works Progress Administration project to get unemployed workers ravaged by the Great Depression back on their feet.
The craftsmanship they used when building the bathhouse remains evident today, Waage said, and it was a priority to preserve the building’s art deco style.
“This has been a good job,” Waage said, singing the praises of Iola Parks Superintendent Berkley Kerr and other city officials. “This is how a project should be done. They knew what they wanted, and we were able to get through it with very few change orders, which allowed us to avoid going over budget.”
Continental representatives will remain on site until after the pool opens, Waage said, to train city employees to operate filtration systems and to assist lifeguards and other pool employees with safety measures.
“I know some of the guys are ready to get the project done, but we’ve worked with a lot of good people here,” Waage said.

THE POOL’S opening is just one cog in what promises to be a busy summer for the Iola Recreation Department.
Bycroft and Recreation Program Coordinator Brad Yoder have been setting up the summer ball schedule for roughly 430 area youths. The first Iola Swim eam meeting was Wednesday. Youngsters still are welcome to join a ball or swim team, Bycroft said. Ball team registration is $25; swim team is $35, plus expenses for equipment. Openings will remain until practices start in the coming days.
Bycroft also plans to further develop activities for the rec building.
Workers from Iola’s power plant recently installed new basketball goals in the refurbished building, and a new curtain dividing the gymnasium will permit multiple basketball or volleyball games to occur simultaneously. The gymnasium also has two new scoreboards that can function together or separately.
“We’d really like to expand the ages of those taking part in these leagues,” Bycroft said.
Plans are also taking shape for co-ed volleyball and softball leagues.
“The timing of those is delicate because most of the adults will work their schedules around the children’s leagues,” Bycroft noted.

BYCROFT AND Yoder are relative newcomers to the Rec Department. Bycroft worked as interim director until being hired full time in December; Yoder came on board in January.
Their hirings were part of an effort by city planners to expand Iola’s recreation programs. They agreed to add the coordinator’s position, while pulling the department from under the Parks and Cemeteries Department. The department sponsors a number of weekly activities, from water aerobics to kickboxing and yoga.
“The people running them do a great job, but nothing is really connected with another,” he said. “We hope to put them all under a single program.”
Bycroft also will be able to expand the hours the rec building is open after a new community building is completed elsewhere in the park.
“Having the new building open will lessen the demand on this one,” Bycroft said.
Yoder is working to add fitness equipment for the rec building to increase offerings for those who stop by for morning walks.
“Eventually, we’d like to have a couple of treadmills, things like that,” Bycroft added. “We’re not trying to compete with any private gyms, but we want to increase our service to the city.”

BYCROFT ALSO is working in league with Allen County Thrive in application for a grant that would fund another Rec Department employee. Doing so will allow the department to grow even further, he said.
Bycroft praised the work of his predecessor, Sherman Ashmore, and hopes to build on the foundation already in place. He also hopes to work further with USD 257 and Allen County Community College.
“We work well together, and we want to continue to build partnerships,” Bycroft said. “We want to continue to grow, and that requires teamwork.”