Water sloshed the brim of three pools as a warm breeze carried beach balls across the toes of new facility staffers. A repetitive tropical melody danced with a classic ice cream truck tune and excited chatter. Shawnee Splash was ready for business.

EDITOR'S NOTE: An in-depth look at a local recreational facility’s grand opening event and the community’s ongoing involvement and excitement.

Water sloshed the brim of three pools as a warm breeze carried beach balls across the toes of new facility staffers. A repetitive tropical melody danced with a classic ice cream truck tune and excited chatter. Shawnee Splash was ready for business.

Saturday’s grand opening event, located at Woodland Park, entailed a tour of the facility, pool performances and guest speakers. John Ayers, pool committee chairman, was pleased with the action-packed program.

“It went according to plan,” he said. “Everyone enjoyed the [Oklahoma Baptist University] diving demonstrations and the break up of the speakers.”

Aquatics Manager Kerri Foster, noting about 200 people attended the celebration, also expressed satisfaction.

“I think everyone spoke and explained all the hard work that went into making the Splash what it is, and our staff hopes to exceed everyone’s expectations,” she said, adding the water park has nearly 40 employees.

City Director of Operations James Bryce recently detailed the water park’s composition, listing a basketball goal, a climbing wall, an interactive play system in the zero-depth entry, a current channel and two slides.

“One is real wide, we call it a family slide, and three people can go down at the same time,” Bryce said. “The other one is a flume slide with a couple of twists.”

Additional amenities include a board/training room for lifeguards or resident parties, showers, restrooms and a wide entry breezeway.

Saturday’s breezeway was lined with tables of themed T-shirts. Valerie Hames, of Creative Magic Productions, was one of several volunteers passing out the banana-colored attire.

“We’re just promoting the Splash,” she said of her participation, “trying to let people know that the park is safe and a good place to bring their kids and a great environment for families. “

The morning included performances by multiple guest swimmers. Foster said the grand opening highlight was having Olympic gold-medalist Josh Davis set the initial Shawnee Splash record for fastest freestyle. Davis was quick to welcome community competition.

“Now it’s ready to be broken,” he said, “so the challenge is out there for somebody from Shawnee to break it.”

Davis detailed his reason for participating.

“As an Olympic swimming ambassador, whenever there’s a new pool built, it has ripple effects through the whole community, for generations,” he said, noting youth have the opportunity to become water safe, make memories, join a swim team and obtain a college scholarship. “And, just maybe, they can go to the Olympic games and win the gold medal for our country, because it was a pool just like this that changed my life and opened up my eyes to how much fun I could have and what I could potentially be.”

Shawnee Splash opened for public swimming at 2:30 p.m. Foster expected 600 to 800 people would filter in, throughout the evening.

Regular pool hours are noon-8 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and 2-8 p.m. on Sundays.

Admittance options include individual and season passes. Individual pass prices are $4 for youth, ages 3 to 17, and citizens age 55 or older. The adult cost is $5.

Season passes are $40 for citizens age 55 and older, and $50 for individuals. A season pass for a family of four is $130, with each additional person costing $10.

The facility is also set to offer exercise classes and swimming lessons. Group swimming lesson sessions, $30 each, are peppered periodically June through August. Class categories currently cater to youth ages 6 months to 11 years. Opportunities for additional ages include the Learn-to-Swim Team.

The funding goal for the $4.2 million pool project was met in 2014. City contribution totaled $3 million. The pool committee collected the remaining, approximate $1.2 million with the help of an Avedis Foundation challenge grant, which matched half of the remaining goal.

The three largest Avedis challenge donors were Sarkeys Foundation, in the form of a $150,000 grant, Citizen Potawatomi Nation, in the amount of $100,000, and Pottawatomie County, in the amount of $50,000. At that time, Ayres reported the goal was reached with the aid of 148 donors.

Last summer, Terry West, Sarkeys Foundation Lifetime Trustee and founder of The West Law Firm in Shawnee, reflected on the variety of donors.

“Some gave substantial amounts and some gave small amounts,” he said. “The small ones were just as important.”

Saturday, West’s sentiment was similar.

“This is a happy day for Shawnee youngsters and families. James Bryce and John Ayers and his committee should be congratulated by everyone for their hard work,” West said. “Many people gave time and money to make this pool and the splash pad at Boy Scout Park happen, and I am so proud of all of them."

For more information about Shawnee Splash, visit www.shawneeok.org/splash or www.facebook.com/shawneesplash, or call 405-878-1529.