By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Squirt, splash and play!
This weekend marks the opening of the Frances Meadows Aquatic and Community Center
One of the many water features in the Splash Zone outdoor section of hte Frances Meadows Aquatic and Community Center, opening this weekend.
While summer officially ends this weekend with the Labor Day holiday, we Georgians are lucky to be able to enjoy a few more weeks of summer-like weather.

And what better way to cool off than at a brand-new water park right her ein Hall County?

Gainesville christens its new Frances Meadows Aquatic and Community Center on Saturday, when the water park opens its gates for indoor and outdoor swimming, play fountains, squirt guns and two three-story-tall water slides.

The water park is essentially two main areas; there's the outdoor Splash Zone with the water slides and a children's play area and an adjacent building housing two indoor pools, meeting spaces and activity rooms.

In the Splash Zone, kids can climb up a red and yellow play structure surrounded by no more than 18 inches of water. There are pails of water that tip and splash anyone below them, and there are rings to crawl through that spray a mist of water.

"It's designed to corral the little kids," said Julie Butler-Colombini, marketing coordinator for Gainesville's Parks and Recreation department, of the teardrop-shaped area. But, she added, "I think it's for all ages, to be honest with you."

Splash Zone also includes two three-story water slides that empty into a pool that also includes a swirl pool and a current channel. So, if you don't feel like swimming but want to move around in the water, you can let the gentle current do it for you.

The outdoor Splash Zone area will be open through Sept. 14, Butler-Colombini said, and right now plans are to open it back up in May 2009. But to maximize playing time, Butler-Colombini said the outdoor area will extend its hours this weekend, from 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday, noon-9 p.m. Sunday and 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday. Until Sept. 14, the area will be open from 4-7 p.m. on school days and until 9 p.m. Fridays.

Inside the Frances Meadows Aquatic and Community Center, there are two indoor lane pools; one, a four-lane pool that is handicapped accessible, is kept between 84 and 86 F, Butler-Colombini said. This is where many of the swimming lessons will take place, she said, and the warm water might even make it easier for the toddlers in the Waterbabies classes to adapt to the wet environment. The second pool is a 10-lane competition pool with seating for 300 spectators. It's also adjacent to a spectator lounge with tables that overlook the competition area. There is also wi-fi access in the lounge.

Because the instructional pool is indoors, it allows the city to offer swimming classes all year round, Butler-Colombini said.
"For kids, when they're learning how to swim, to keep that confidence up year round, it makes them better swimmers," she said, adding that classes aren't just for kids.

"You can learn, as an adult, to swim. Also, you can take in a private setting or a group setting, and we're also going to be offering swim lessons to children with special needs."

Jim Young, coach of Lanier Aquatics, a competitive swimming organization that will begin practicing at the center, said the group has already planned several events for this fall and early next year.

Lanier Aquatics, which has served Hall and surrounding counties for about 25 years, includes about 75 students from the area, Young said. Being able to practice and hold competitions at the Frances Meadows center will completely change the organization, he said.

"It gives us the opportunity to really grow the program ... the keys to growing the program are not only quality coaching but also having enough time and space to accommodate more participants," he said. "We've been averaging around 75 (members), and our goal is to grow up to 200 within a year, year and a half or so."

Young added that having the aquatic center was "a big deal." In October at the center they will host their first large swimming meet for teams from around the state, and Young hopes to attract between 400 and 500 competitors. But even if that many don't come, he said word will get out about the complex and its capabilities.

"It's the first meet of any significance in the facility," he said. "We think people will realize how great the facility is."
Jennifer Colvin, division manager of the Frances Meadows center, said as opposed to Green Street Pool, which Lanier Aquatics has used for years to hold their meets, the new center offers a space specifically for the group's needs.

"This is designed for the competitive environment where Green Street was designed to be a multipurpose place," Colvin said.

The building also houses a fitness room and activity rooms, where the city will offer classes ranging from nutrition to painting and wrestling. There's even a class called "How to Get Into College."

"Right now we've got a lot scheduled in here, and it will increase when people come in and ask for certain things," Butler-Colombini said. "We try to be as diverse as we could with the times and days and types of classes we offer so we can reach every level of need and every age of need, which is important in our community these days."