Metro pools open under gray skies

  • Article by: BEN JOHNSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 11, 2013 - 4:27 PM

The sun may still be in hiding, but many local pools opened this weekend.

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Logan Gefre, 12, had fun Friday despite the dreary weather on opening day at the St. Louis Park Outdoor Aquatic Park.

Photo: KYNDELL HARKNESS , Star Tribune

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A snowy, sloppy April followed by a gray, drizzly May left most Minnesotans aching for some sustained sunshine and a chance to don their swimsuits, dormant since last year’s hot, dry summer.

Mother Nature may not be ready for it, but public outdoor pools around the west metro opened their gates for the season this past weekend.

“As long as it doesn’t snow, we’ll be on track to open [the New Hope outdoor pool] on time,” Mark Severson, New Hope’s recreational facility manager, joked last week. New Hope’s outdoor pool opened Saturday.

“The weather will eventually change — it’s Minnesota, and it always does,” Severson said. “Pretty soon people will be complaining that it’s too warm, and hopefully that’s when people come swimming.”

Severson said 500 season passes had been sold for the New Hope pool as of late last week, a decrease of about 20 percent from the same time last year. He attributed the sales drop to the weather.

For the most part, public-pool managers are philosophical about the weather.

“The weather’s been out of our control, so we roll with what we get dealt and do the best we can,” said Jason Eisold, manager of the St. Louis Park Recreation Center. “It’ll play itself out over the summer.”

The St. Louis Park Outdoor Aquatic Park was closed for only 2 ½ days last summer. On average, the park is closed six or seven days in the summer.

Nate Rosa, a supervisor at the rec center, said St. Louis Park held off for 2½ weeks this year before mailing out an early-bird season pass flier because of cold spring weather.

“We knew that people would’ve just thrown [the flier] to the wayside,” Rosa said. June 3 was the last day to get the early-bird discount on the St. Louis Park Outdoor Aquatic Park season pass, and weather that included sunshine with highs into the mid-70s on June 2 “helped a lot” in lending a last-second boost to season pass sales.

Patty McGrath, general manager of the Edina Aquatic Center, took a different approach to selling early-bird season passes. She sent out notifications and fliers early in the spring, with a cut-off date of April 30.

“With the whole spring we’ve had, people aren’t even thinking about putting on a swimsuit yet ... but our season-pass sales have been strong,” McGrath said. “We start selling them early, and I think that in those months, people are still hoping that it will be a nice, warm summer.”

Special events at pools

At the Edina Aquatic Center on June 18, a number of local swim clubs and charities will join an attempt to break the world record for largest swimming lesson. Public pools across the nation and world will all teach the same basic swimming lesson from 10 to 10:30 a.m. Central Time that day. The lesson is free, but preregistration is required; visit abbeyshope.org/events/worlds -largest-swimming-lesson.

The Edina Aquatic Center will celebrate its 55th anniversary this July, although McGrath said specifics on the celebration were still in the works. She also said that for the first time, birthday party packages will be offered this year.

This year in St. Louis Park, the traditional opaque, colorful waterslide tubes are being phased out for clear tubes, and the snack bar is adding more healthy items.

Rosa also said he was surprised last year by the popularity of the all-male and all-female swimming nights.

“By request of the people that come [to St. Louis Park’s Outdoor Aquatics Park], we’ve actually added more dates for the all-male and all-female swim nights,” he said.

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