Rogers Aquatic Center set to open in May

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 314 views 

Despite the unseasonable cold temperatures, officials with the city of Rogers are looking forward to warmer temperatures with its new aquatic center.

The water park, located on South 26th street, formerly Doc Wheeler Park, is set to open May 25. The $12.9 million project was funded by the 2011 bond issue where more than $25 million went towards parks and recreation.

It’s the first time in more than 50 years, the city of Rogers will have a new public pool surrounded by a state-of-the-art water park.

Aquatics Center Manager Suzy Turek is surprised this type of facility didn’t already exist in the area.

“With the size of Northwest Arkansas, it’s surprising. (The City of) Rogers had the foresight and knew it would be good for residents and it’s tax base,” she said, “It’s an investment in the city and those who agreed with the bond election, invested.”

The pricing to enter the water park has different levels based on residency and height. (Link here for pricing details.)

“We are trying to be fiscally responsible,” she said, “We aren’t going to pay for the park. The revenue from admission is solely to make sure we can run this park without being a burden to the city.”

Turek has more than 25 years in aquatics operations but admits this project is unique.

“Every decision or anticipation is our best educated guess. We really don’t know what to expect,” she said. “What we are hoping is that we will see residents of Rogers and people within a 75-mile radius. It’s a unique park. I’ve worked at private and municipal parks and this is a hybrid.”

Nearly two months away from opening and the park is going through a hiring frenzy. More than 90 people will be employed by the park with more than 60 of them being lifeguards. Turek estimates her budget will near $500,000 with more than $300,000 in salary, $60,000 in pool chemicals and the remainder for liability insurance, water and electricity.

“We want to be a self-sustaining entity and be “in-the-red” and not pull from the general fund,” she said.

With the cost of admission ranging from $8-$15 for the day, water-goers can come and go throughout the day.

Turek hopes residents will flock to the Rogers facility without driving to Tulsa or Springfield.

“We hope they know it’s a cost effective family experience without having to drive two hours,” she said, “I love the size of it. It’s not too big that you get lost and it’s well laid-out and functional.”

The park also has a competition pool with springboards, family leisure pool, a pool with a net where people may walk across, an area for little ones, spray pad and two family pools where small children age 3 and under can splash as well as a lazy river for families.

“It’s a top-notch facility. When people come in they are going to see I think their jaws are going to drop,” Turek said, “It’s great to see other people excited.”

The park could have some competition from two cities south of Northwest Arkansas.

Clarksville, the county seat of Johnson County, will soon open a more than $9 million aquatics center. The new center will include an eight-lane lap indoor swimming pool, water therapy pool and outdoor water park including a pool, slides, lazy river and children’s area.

Fort Smith voters approved in 2012 a $4 million bond that is part of a deal with Sebastian County to build an $8 million aquatics park at Ben Geren Regional Park.  However, a debate about the cost of the project and potential financial shortfalls for the Sebastian County government are threatening to delay the proposed Memorial Day 2014 opening of the facility.

There is also a small water park in Alma.