Last Splash

Yankton’s Fantle Memorial Park swimming pool has been a staple of summer recreation for families and swimmers of all ages for more than 70 years. The pool is being replaced, and its last day of public swimming is this Friday.

Yankton has one more week to say goodbye to the Fantle Memorial Park Pool.

At 5 p.m. Friday, the pool gates will close to the public for the final time before its eventual demolition and its replacement — the Huether Family Aquatics Center — is built.

But that doesn’t mean there won’t be at least a few opportunities to celebrate the pool in the meantime.

Yankton Recreation Manager Brittany Orr told the Press & Dakotan that the promotions are a way of drawing the public to the pool one more time.

“We’re trying to plan something every day … highlighting things either that we currently do and trying to make them a little better, or adding additional giveaways and opportunities for people to value or take advantage of the last week that Memorial Pool will be open,” Orr said.

Festivities kicked off Friday and continued throughout the weekend. Special activities this week include:

• Monday — First 300 in the door will receive a free dive toy.

• Tuesday — Free watermelon feed from 5-8 p.m.

• Wednesday — Last $1 Buck Night 5-8 p.m.

• Thursday — Free Family Night 6-8 p.m. and 2-for-1 concessions 12:30-7 p.m.

• Friday — Free admission and 2-for-1 concessions 12:30-5 p.m.

Orr said it was important to commemorate the pool’s final week of operation after more than seven decades.

“It’s been such a good run of that pool,” she said. “People have really enjoyed their time there and we’ve seen generations of people that are talking about things that they were doing 40 years ago in that pool. To honor it, so to speak, we wanted to do some things that really highlight the value and how excited people have been about the pool and just give the community a reminder that this is it for the Memorial Pool.”

As the gates are closed at 5 p.m. Friday, a special guest will help close out the pool that he has been intimately connected to almost since day one. Former Yankton City Commissioner Bill “Duke” Ellingson is slated to swim the final lap at the pool.

Ellingson told the Press & Dakotan that he’s had some connection to the pool throughout his life.

“I grew up two blocks south of the pool,” Ellingson said. “I first went there when I was 4. … Living two blocks from the pool, I was a pool rat. Then they finally hired me, so I worked there for four years — I was a lifeguard. Then my daughter got on the swim team, so I was involved with the swim team for many years up there.”

He was also involved with efforts to bring a new aquatic center to the city, with some efforts being less successful than others.

“I was on the City Commission trying to get a new pool, but we had commissioners that didn’t want it so that didn’t pan out very good,” he said. “Then Dive In Yankton came into being and I got on board with those guys. They were really great and we finally got it done.”

He said it was a call from the city that helped get him on board with helping send the pool out one final time.

“Brittany Orr called me one day and wondered if I’d be interested in doing the last lap,” he said. “I go, ‘I’d be honored.’ I spent a lot of time in that pool over the years.”

Ellingson said it’s time for a new facility.

“This pool had served its useful life and it was just time,” he said. “It had so many problems and they weren’t getting any better. … It’s the end of an era and the beginning of a new one. That’s the way things go.”

Dive In Yankton co-founder and President Josh Svatos was instrumental in helping to bring about a new aquatic center.

He told the Press & Dakotan that there’s a mix of emotions for the pool’s final week.

“It’s going to be sad and happy at the same time,” Svatos said. “Everybody is excited to see construction begin on the Huether Family Aquatics Center, but at the same time, you’re taking a piece of 72-year-old history out of the community, so (I have) feelings on both sides of the fence.”

He said that he intends to attend some of the week’s pool activities.

Yankton Mayor Nathan Johnson told the Press & Dakotan that the current facility played a big part in people’s lives, and the new one will be no different.

“A lot of memories were made there: Kids learning how to swim; parents spending time with their children; and teenagers holding their first jobs as lifeguards,” Johnson said. “There are probably a few stories of crazy hijinks, too, that people will remember and laugh about in these final days. So we really are saying goodbye to a community institution. Fortunately, we’ve got a bigger and more modern facility on the horizon that will do all of these things and more. People of all ages will learn, exercise and have fun in the Huether Family Aquatics Center for decades to come.”

He added that it was a long road to this milestone for Yankton’s aquatics facilities

“A lot of people worked really hard to get to where we are today,” he said. “They ‘kept swimming’ even as the currents against them were rough. I thank everyone who got behind the Dive In Yankton effort. I thank our city staff who did so much to keep the Memorial Park pool going all of these years and helped educate the public on why it was time to consider a new facility. It took a community effort to get here, and it was personally very rewarding to be a part of the campaign. I was very inspired by the teamwork I saw to support the building of a facility that can serve people of all ages and of which Yankton can be proud.”

Yankton City Manager Amy Leon told the Press & Dakotan that it’s hard to believe that the pool’s time is nearly at an end.

“It seems a little bit surreal,” Leon said. “The end of pool season always seems to creep up before I want summer to start coming to a close — that’s always the case. I don’t know that it’s sunk in that this is the last time for Memorial Park Pool. It’s exciting and I think it will really hit home once we have our contractors in place for the new aquatics facility. I think that’s when it will really sink in.”

She added that she encourages everyone to join in the celebration of the pool’s final week.

“It’s important, as a community, to recognize that this facility has served us so well for so long, give it a proper send off and get ready for change” she said.

Leon also offered a short update on where planning for the Huether Family Aquatics Center is at present.

“We’re nearly complete with design,” she said. “We’ve been meeting with Stockwell Engineers on a weekly basis and working on the design. They’ll be ready to provide us with their 95% complete plans in the next few weeks. We’ll need some time to go through all of those and finalize plans with them.”

She expects to start advertising bids in September, with a recommendation to the City Commission sometime in October — almost one year after the city had initially green-lit an opt-out to fund a new aquatic facility.

Leon said demolition is likely to begin in 2020.

“Initially, when we first got into this project, (our engineer) thought that it might be a good idea to have demolition take place this fall and have construction start in the spring,” she said. “The contractors he’s inquired with have indicated that we’ll probably get better pricing if we put demolition in early spring and make it all one mobilization effort. … We’re on track and excited to see when bids come in.”

Orr said there is a bittersweet element to the week coming up.

“It’s exciting looking to the future and know what is coming and what the community will be able to take advantage of,” she said. “It’s a little bittersweet because of this last few weeks when we’ve been hearing stories about, ‘They did this in 1976,’ or ‘This was going on.’ It’s kind of hard to say goodbye to a facility where there’s been so many memories that have been generated over the last 70-plus years.”

The Huether Family Aquatics Center is expected to open in 2021.

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