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    New pool center a splash hit

    A Largo recreation director says the new slides and giant water guns make Largo's newly renovated aquatic center more attractive to the young.

    By ERIC STIRGUS

    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published August 4, 2001


    LARGO -- Considering that you can slide along the tongue of a giant plastic frog, the city's Highland Family Aquatic Center is far from the typical city pool that Freda Drake and her fiance, Ron Moss, remembered as children.

    "You don't see this at a city pool," said Drake, 35.

    And that's just the way the city planned it.

    photo
    [Times photo: Krystal Kinnunen]
    Kara Gyorkos, 9, and Katherine Bronk, 10, spray friends and family in the pool down below Wednesday at Highland Family Aquatic Center.
    Nearly 7,600 people have visited the center since it opened a month ago today, said Matt Spoor, the city's aquatics manager. About $20,000 has been collected from visitors, which is on pace to far exceed the $23,000 city officials expected to earn by October.

    The data has surprised city Recreation and Parks workers, considering the many rainy days last month.

    "With all that taken into consideration, we're pleased with the numbers," Spoor said.

    Located across the street from police headquarters, the center reopened to much fanfare on Independence Day after a renovation project that began in November. The project cost about $900,000.

    The complex is open daily. There are 12 lifeguards on staff.

    Following the trend of other communities, city officials wanted to build a pool with cool features that would draw young children. It has a large playhouse with three covered slides, several giant water guns and three huge umbrellas for parents to sit underneath and take a breather while their kids frolic in the pool.

    "It's happening. It's growing everywhere," Mary Nolen, the city's assistant Recreation and Parks director, said of the movement of creating pools with such features.

    Moss, 35, who grew up in Seminole, was impressed. His visit Friday was the third time he's come with Drake and her 8-year-old son, Thomas, in the past two weeks.

    "There's more of an atmosphere of fun," said Moss, a hairdresser, moments after being hit in the head with a beach ball from the pool.

    Some seniors who used to swim at the center are disappointed. Some of the programs that used to be held at the facility were moved to the Southwest Recreation Complex, Spoor said. To mend fences, the city is planning new activities at the facility for seniors.

    "We want to show the seniors we still care about them and we still want their approval," Spoor said.

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