The Huether Family Aquatics Center continues to take shape in the northwest corner of Fantle Memorial Park.
On Friday, city officials, the press and even the aquatics center’s namesake were offered a lengthy tour of the progress that has been made on the nearly $12 million facility.
Ahead of Friday’s walk-through, Yankton Mayor Nathan Johnson addressed the crowd, centering his speech around the word “hope.”
“It’s a word and a feeling that we express often in our lives — but I think, for many of us, it has taken on new dimensions and new urgency during the last six months,” Johnson said. “Life is not the same, and we don’t know when or if it will be again. So we look out upon the world in search of the beacons of light that will give us hope — hope for a better day, hope for our collective health and hope in each other.”
He said that the Huether Family Aquatics Center provides one such beacon for the people of Yankton.
“This facility represents that better day,” he said. “It represents community, and it represents fun. There’s no denying — we are all in need of some pure, unadulterated fun.”
Johnson added that the current situation may be somewhat like the atmosphere that surrounded the opening of the Huether Family Aquatics Center’s predecessor.
“I suspect where we are now is not unlike the atmosphere that existed in the country when the original Memorial Park Pool was opened in 1947,” he said. “They had just emerged from World War II, a time of great sacrifice and tribulation. They were hungry for a brighter future, for community and for good times. They also would have had an understanding of how powerful it is to work together on a common goal.”
He said that there is still much to overcome.
“When we started this project with the help of Dive-In Yankton and all of its supporters, we had no idea we would find ourselves in these circumstances. ... But here we are. We have no choice but to endure and to succeed.”
Following the Yankton mayor’s remarks, the former mayor of Sioux Falls took the podium.
Mike Huether — one of the project’s main backers and whose family name will be attached to the new facility — said there’s much to celebrate in what Yankton has accomplished.
“I’m really, really proud of our hometown,” Huether said. “The memories that Cindy and I have had growing up here are really, really special ones. Not only are we excited about the foundation this town laid for us, we’re even more excited about the things that are yet to come.”
During the fundraising portion of the project, the Mike, Cindy and Kylie Huether Family Foundation donated $1 million towards the project.
Following the walk-through, he said he was happy with the progress made on the new aquatic center.
“It’s massive, it’s beautiful, it’s incredibly exciting and long overdue,” he said.
However, Huether is no stranger to issuing challenges to his hometown. During a visit to Yankton in April 2015 — two years before the formation of Dive-In Yankton and the beginning of the current project — he implored that the city look at replacing the Fantle Memorial Park pool, among other things.
Friday, Huether wasn’t shy about issuing, not one, but two challenges to the Yankton community.
“Don’t wait for the pool to get done in the spring before you start tackling the next big thing Yankton wants to accomplish as a city,” he said. “We kind of rest on our laurels or we celebrate too much on what we’ve already accomplished. There’s still so much more that needs to be done in every town, and that includes Yankton.”
The other challenge is to make sure that that Huether Family Aquatics Center is truly a place for everyone.
“People have heard my story a bit and some of the challenges my family faced when I was growing up,” Huether said. “There were a lot of things that we couldn’t afford or ultimately were excluded from as kids. … That’s not going to happen when it comes to this pool. No way in heck will the Huether family allow that. My challenge is that I’m going to do anything I can to rally others to raise some funds, be good stewards, share our time, our talent and our treasure and … make sure this is available for everybody, regardless of someone’s income or ability to pay.”
Huether was also presented with a sign featuring the aquatic center’s name and logo during the private tour Friday.
While many key elements such as the facility’s lazy river, water slides, main pool, concession stand and bathhouse continue to take shape, Public Works Director Adam Haberman told the Press & Dakotan a lot of work remains.
“They’re still doing all right, schedule-wise,” Haberman said. “There’s a lot of construction season left here. … Over the next month or two, you’ll see concrete going down in places as they finish the edges of the pool. You’ll see the concrete decking going in.”
The Huether Family Aquatics Center is slated to open next summer.
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