For a while, there were serious doubts about whether a Durant summertime staple would open this year given the coronavirus pandemic.
Although it’s a little later than usual, Durant officials decided to open the city swimming pool, located at Carl Albert Memorial Park, 1301 Gail Farrell Drive.
They have increased hours because of the delay and thinner crowds may be experienced in order to allow for social distancing.
“We followed state and local guidelines to make it as safe as it can be right now,” stated Aundrea Boyd, who begin her fourth year as pool manager after serving 12 years as concession manager. “We usually start preparing the facility around the first of May and open May 30. This year it was June 8, so it’s not that much later than normal.
“Even with all the restrictions, we luckily had Red Cross certification that came here to our pool, and we had 13 new lifeguards get certified around the first week of May,” Boyd said. “We’ve got plenty of lifeguards this year with the increased hours of operation, which is a lot different than what we have done before. That was the idea of our city manager, John Dean, since we were unable to have our normal Splash Day (event) this year.
“We had a total of 780 people at various times last year on opening Splash Day from opening to closing because it was free, and that obviously wasn’t possible. Right now, we are going to operate at half capacity at a time, which is 250 people,” she said. “Normally we don’t have that many (people) at any one time anyway, so it shouldn’t affect much. If it looks like it’s getting too crowded, we will have to make people wait until some people leave before coming in.”
This year’s operation hours for regular swim time will be 12:30-8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 9 a.m. to noon and 12:30-8 p.m. Fridays, and 12:30-5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
Patrons will also notice more personnel on duty at all times to help frequently sanitize and keep people safe during their visits to the pool while continuing to following state and local restrictions.
“The virus isn’t transferable in the water, but we are still keeping chlorine on the upside though just because it also would kill any virus,” Boyd said. “We are going to have an additional person at the bottom of the slide and at the back of the diving boards passing out hand sanitizer for those that want it before touching any rails. We will also have a person at the front gate checking people’s temperatures before they enter.
“All our office personnel and concession workers will be wearing masks, and we are encouraging anyone on the deck to wear masks, but it’s not mandatory. There is going to be a constant cleaning person cleaning rails, hard surfaces, picnic tables and benches. We are trying to take all the precautions that we can so have increased the staff by a couple of people during each shift.
“Bathrooms and locker rooms will be open, but there will be almost constant cleaning taking place. Someone will be in there about every 15 minutes to sanitize. We have chemicals to stop bacteria growth. We have also moved all the benches and tables six feet apart. Even in the concession area, we have lines to try and keep people at least six feet apart as much as possible.
“There are some city pools that aren’t even opening this summer, so we are fortunate. It’s scary times so you never know, but we are going to take every precaution with the kids as always.”
Admission prices this year are $1 for ages 5 and under, $3.50 for ages 6-18, $4.00 for ages 18-54 and $1 for age 55 and older.
Boyd stressed that it may be a good idea for regular pool-goers to purchase a family season pass because of the increased hours. Family passes are $100 and include admission for three members of an immediate family. Additional family members can be added for $25 each.
Group pool parties have become extremely popular in past years and the price for those has gone up slightly to $220 for a two-hour time slot. That hasn’t slowed interest, however, as most of the available dates for June are already booked. Plenty of slots are still open for July and August according to Boyd.
Set party times are 10 a.m. to noon, 5:15-7:15 p.m. and 7:30-9:30 p.m. on Saturdays. The last 30 minutes of each party will be on the deck.
Another popular pool tradition is swimming lessons, which began this week with sign-ups still available through June and July.
Group lessons are held Monday through Thursday with four possible 50-minute time frames for ages 5 and up. Times are 9 a.m., 10 a.m., 11 a.m. and noon at a cost of $65 per week. One-on-one private lessons are also available for a cost of $100.
Also available are morning lap swim sessions as well as self-taught water aerobics for seniors at a cost of $1 from 9-11 a.m. each weekday.
“The water is warmer with the later start this year, so we won’t have to see as many blue-faced kids with their teeth chattering in May, so that’s a bonus,” joked Boyd, who has spent the better part of every summer of her life at the local pool.
“Everybody is looking to get out and do something after being cooped up so long. This pool is loved by the whole community. This is like the place to be in the summer. There’s not a lot of things for kids to do around Durant, so they just love it. We have families that come in every year that love it so much. I can’t say how much it’s loved.
“It’s a part of my life and with several others as well. I took swim lessons here. My parents swam in this pool, my kids swam in this pool and my son was a lifeguard here for eight years.”
Staff for the pool this year includes swim lesson supervisor Leslie Fincher, supervisors Teenie Baxter and Kaylee Ragsdale, concession supervisor Ashly Hilburn and concession workers Skylar Stout and Cameron Hull.
Lifeguards are Adelyn Culbreath, Aidan Isenberg, Bailey Polson, Bentley Shattuck, Brooklyn Pilgreen, Chisolm Booth, Cody Parker, Daniel Burt, Demi Hood, Gerry Haislip, Gracie Cater, Hannah Kaler, Jackie Todd, Jayden Self, Jonah Self, Kamri Blake, Katy Herndon, Ky Carper, Kynsey Dixon, Lynia Henry, Maci Stout, Parker Lynch, Payton Al-Khateib, Skylar Phillips and Zane Hilburn.
One lifeguard not listed is Kaleb Foster, who was among the four Durant teens killed in a tragic Memorial Day weekend traffic accident.
In tribute, Boyd said, one of the pool’s lifeguard stations will be adorned with a lifeguard shirt featuring Foster’s name along with his whistle to begin the summer season.
For additional information about the pool, swim lessons and party rentals, call 580-924-2087.