Corbin H. Crable
Break out your sunscreen and water wings – Gardner’s Aquatic Center opens this weekend.
According to the city’s Web site, the center will open at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 29, for the summer season. To celebrate the opening, the city of Gardner’s Parks and Recreation department will host an opening day celebration between 1 p.m.
and 4 p.m., complete with giveaways, prizes, free cake and live music.
Parks and Recreation Director Jeff Stewart said preparations for Saturday’s opening began as early as December, when his staff began taking applications for seasonal employees. Then came the actual cleaning and equipment tune-ups.
“We had to winterize the facility at the completion of each season, so we had to dewinterize it in the spring to get it ready for the new season,” Stewart explained. “We cleaned and tested the equipment, and we also take applications and hire and train staff.”
In all, he said, the center employs 130 staff members, most of them high school or college students.
“The (amount of training employees receive) depends on the position,” he said. “We have staff members who are certified to provide training, and that’s a lengthy process. We do (employees’) in-water testing as well, and we also train admissions, attendance and concession staff.”
Stewart said now that the training and prep work have been finished, Parks and Recreation is ready for the onslaught of swimmers the center will welcome this summer.
“On average, over the last three seasons, we’ve served more than 100,000 people each season, so the center certainly is a big draw,” Stewart said, adding the center sees a lot of visitors from outside the Gardner area as well.
Those attending the grand opening of the aquatic center this weekend will find weather conditions perfect for enjoying the water. Forecasts call for sunny skies with highs in the lower 80s.
“As long as we have good weather, we’ll have a good-sized crowd and we’ll have a lot of fun,” Stewart said.
He said he hopes everyone will come out to enjoy all the opening day event has to offer – the prizes, the music and the cake as well.
When asked about the old rule regarding not swimming for at least an hour after eating, Stewart said those wanting to enjoy the free cake needn’t worry, either.
“That’s a myth,” he said, laughing. “It’s a fairly large cake, but the serving sizes are fairly small. We don’t want to give any big sugar rushes to our kids.”
The aquatic center will be open from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. daily through Aug. 11. After Aug. 11, the center will only be open from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays; the center will close for the season on Sept. 6.
Admission rates are $6 for swimmers ages 3 to 61; children younger than 2 and adults ages 62 and older are free. The city also offers season passes at $140 for families who live in Gardner and $180 for families who live outside the city, as well as individual passes at $80 for Gardner residents and $115 for nonresidents. Passes can be purchased at City Hall, 120 E. Main St.