Shawnee County Parks Recreation aquatic centers and swimming pools open Saturday, May 27. For operating hours and admission prices visit http://parks.snco.us/index.aspx?nid=42
SCP R’s aquatic centers have been featured twice in the past year in national and international trade journals. While many communities build one aquatic center to serve the entire community, Shawnee County purposely designed three different aquatic centers – each one offering a unique experience.
A Parks & Rec Business magazine article carries the headline “Setting Aquatics on Fire”. This is a reference to a 1950s Topeka Capital-Journal article which describes how Mike Blaisdell climbed atop the tower at the pool in Gage Park, doused his long johns in lighter fluid, set himself afire and swan dived into the pool. Naturally, that wouldn’t be allowed today, but the Midwest Health Aquatic Center did open to 400 middle school students attending a ribbon cutting and getting a preview of the newest aquatic facility which opens for its first full season in 2017.
The Family Experience
Today’s Blaisdell Family Aquatic Center, named for Mike’s father Terry Blaisdell – Topeka’s first recreation director – is Shawnee County’s original “leisure” type aquatic center. It was dedicated in 2000 and is a family favorite as it is located in Gage Park which is home to the Topeka Zoo, Animaland, the mini-train and carousel, and much more.
Blaisdell features two drop slides, a family slide, a tornado slide, a net course and a zero entry area. New this year is a crawl-through slide that replaces the old alligator slide in the children’s area. With its lap pool and diving towers, Blaisdell Family Aquatic Center serves swimmers looking for a workout and also plays host to swim meets.
Surrounded by Nature
Shawnee North Family Aquatic Center, opened in 2006, sits in a wooded park with ample green space to separate patrons from a city environment. Built on different elevations, the park takes advantage of the area’s natural landscape.
In addition to the Viking theme picked up from nearby Seaman High School, the center features a hugely popular lazy river through which people of all ages glide on tubes through a winding path. During off hours, Water Walking is a popular activity in the lazy river. Three pools divide lap swimmers from family fun seekers and leisure swimmers. The pool also features a children’s area, lap pool, diving boards, a drop slide and a tornado slide.
The Extreme Experience
Opened in 2016, the Midwest Health Aquatic Center features a 35-foot high water tower with five slides, a zip line, a climbing wall and the nation’s first bow-tie wave pool which generates four different types of waves. A leisure pool includes a zero entry children’s play area, vortex pool and basketball goals.
The aquatic center caters to the extreme entertainment desires of today’s young patrons and is designed to be akin to a major water park, but condensed. With three separate pools taking advantage of the site’s topography, the aquatic center’s design separates thrill seeking teens from toddlers to make it more family friendly.
The height of the water slide tower with its twisting, intertwining slides puts it among the top 10 to 15 percent of municipal waterslides in the country. The design of the slide tower allows two additional slides to be added in the future to keep the park fresh. A $1 million gift from Midwest Health will support future park improvements.
For those looking for a closer to home experience, swimming pools are open at Hillcrest, Oakland, Garfield and Rossville.
Aquatic facilities stay open until school starts and then one aquatic center will remain open on weekends after school starts as long as weather permits.
We’ll meet you there!