Prosser pool to fully open Monday

PROSSER -- The pitter-patter of wet, little feet and shrieks of excitement once again echo over E.J. Miller Park in Prosser this summer.

Workers still are finishing up one end of the new attractions in town, but city officials managed to get kids in the water on the last day of school, maintaining a tradition first established in the 1950s.

The Prosser Aquatic Center partially opened last week in the same spot where the old lap pool stood for more than 50 years.

The new facility shares very little with the old pool, which will become even more obvious when the entire center opens to the public Monday.

The old pool at the northwest corner of Miller Park was a 40-yard rectangle surrounded by a concrete pad and fencing. It offered little in the way of thrills.

"We had a little diving board for a while," said pool manager Ruth Watkins. "But we had to take it out because the water wasn't deep enough."

Now a steep, 27-foot slide graces one side of the pool, which was deepened to 9 feet and shortened to 25 yards.

The original plan was to use most of the concrete basin of the old pool, but contractors found much of it to be defective and tore out most of it, said Cathleen Koch, Prosser's deputy city administrator.

And in place of the square kids pool just east of the lap pool that was in the original plan, architects suggested a watery playground that is sure to increase the fun when it opens next week.

A 100-foot slide spirals down into an irregular-shaped pool. The slope of this slide is much gentler than that of the smaller one in the big kids' pool, making it suitable for little swimmers, Watkins said.

In the middle of the pool is a play structure capped by large metal flowers spewing water.

One side of the pool features a so-called "beach access" that offers a soft, gradual slope that's safe to navigate for people of any age or ability, Koch said.

Several large shade structures stand in the grass next to the play pool. Barbecue grills will be available for rent in two-hour blocks, Watkins said.

Outside of the fence sits Prosser's Boys & Girls Club. The club received a grant from the Michael Phelps Foundation, which it will use for swim and water-safety lessons at the new pool, Koch said.

When the aquatic center first was proposed, the budget for it was about $1 million, Koch said. The final version cost almost three times that, she said.

That money came from a bond for just under $2 million, which had no effect on property taxes, Koch said.

It will be paid off over time out of the city's general fund.

Another $500,000 came from the state Recreation and Conservation Office. The rest came from city coffers, Koch said.

"We had to move some money around," Koch said. "But this is a big thing for our community."

On Tuesday, the lap pool attracted a crowd of about 80 children and adults. When the entire facility opens next week, those numbers are bound to go up, Koch said.

The aquatic center might hit its maximum capacity of 400 during the grand opening July 23, she said. Admission will be free that day.

On any other day, children older than 3 pay $3. Adults pay $4. Season passes run from $75 for kids to $175 for a family of five.

The center is open every day. Hours vary because of swim lessons and other activities, but in general, some part of it is open daily from late morning to early evening.

Check cityofprosser.org for details. Click on "departments," then "recreation."