Aquatic Center is a ‘cool’ place to visit

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 5, 2001


Thursday, July 05, 2001

ST. ANSGAR, Iowa – There’s no swimming pool anymore to beat the summer heat in this Mitchell County community.

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Instead, everyone goes to the new $1.3 million St. Ansgar Aquatic Center.

All right. Just for the sake of "braggin’ rights," St. Ansgar will admit: Northwood, Iowa’s aquatic center is bigger. That’s a fact.

But try convincing anyone who visits the St. Ansgar Aquatic Center theirs is not better. It can’t be done.

This is absolutely, positively, completely, thoroughly and perfectly built for St. Ansgar.

Dick Johnson, a former St. Ansgar City Council Member and teacher in the St. Ansgar Community School District, is chairman of the city aquatics board. Even Johnson notes the new pride in the facility. "We used to call it the swimming pool committee. Now, it’s the aquatics board," he said.

According to Johnson, city officials began exploring options to replace an out-dated municipal swimming pool three years ago.

Public meetings were held to invite citizens’ input to replace the original pool built in the 1970s by the St. Ansgar Lions Club and donated to the school district.

"The old pool needed many repairs and the school district couldn’t afford to make them, so the city became involved," said Johnson. "At the time, we were looking at more of a family recreational center instead of just a swimming pool."

When a design was approved and the financing arranged, the project proceeded. "The majority of the project was funded by public monies," said Johnson. "That included a Tax Increment Financing district, our Local Options Sales Tax revenues, plus some grants."

The city received $100,000 from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources last year and another $60,000 from Vision Iowa.

"The project was also helped a lot by over $120,000 in business and other private donations," said Johnson.

Only $180,000 to $200,000 of the total costs remains to be paid. The city will offer bonds for that amount to wrap-up the project.

The new aquatic center is located on the same site as the old swimming pool west of the St. Ansgar Community School District middle and high school facility. "The school district and city essentially swapped properties and now the city owns it," said Johnson.

The St. Ansgar Aquatic Center opened to the public June 9. A raffle drawing was held and Jon Henaman was the winner of the first trip down the huge water slide and a slash in the water. He brought his son and since that time, the hot summer days of June and early July have drawn crowds each day to the aquatic center.

There are wide decks around the water areas for sunbathing and relaxing. Two separate areas are children’s-only with wading-deep water.

A twisting water slide is the most popular attraction for swimmers of all ages, while two diving boards challenge the brave and a deep pool area beckons serious swimmers.

Lifeguards are everywhere to ensure safe fun and a concessions area takes care of the thirsty and hungry swimmers.

Parking is plentiful in the school parking lot outside.

Brendan Rourick, a sophomore at the University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa, is the center’s manager.

He supervises the work of 25 employees throughout the summer swimming season.

"It’s been very popular since it opened," said Rourick. "Kids come all the time, so do parents and grandparents. We’ve had adults doing laps during the adults-only swim time."

Buses transport children taking swimming lessons from nearby Lyle, Minn., but after only three weeks of operation, the center is attracting swimmers from the rural areas around St. Ansgar in northern Iowa and southern Minnesota.

"It’s great to see families here," said Johnson, "The wide deck area and umbrellas allow them to sit in the shade if they want and watch their children and grandchildren play in the water. That’s what we want it to be: a family recreational center."

A formal dedication and grand opening will be held sometime later this summer.

Johnson is especially interested in acknowledging the private contributions the project received as well as a successful solicitation of St. Ansgar High School alumni. Checks for $20 to $1,000 were received from the graduates after a direct-mail solicitation for funding assistance.

"This is an image builder for the community," said Johnson. "It is something we needed and it will help make St. Ansgar, Iowa a destination. This and a strong downtown retail district show everyone what we have to offer as a community."

The center is open 1-5:30 p.m. and 6:30-8:30 pm. for open swimming. Adults-only swimming is allowed 5:30-6:30 p.m. The center can be reserved for private parties from 8:30-10 p.m.

The aquatic center offers swimming lessons in the morning

For more information, call (641) 713-4721.

Call Lee Bonorden at 434-2232 or e-mail him at