Build it and they will… Thousands flock to first weekend at new Ephrata pool; memberships up 36 percent over all of last season

By on June 4, 2012

By: ANDY FASNACHT Review Editor, Staff Writer

Crowds swelled quickly on the opening day of the new Ephrata Community Pool Saturday, but the big day was Monday when 1,447 showed up to enjoy a beautiful and warm Memorial Day. (Photo by Stan Hall)

Just like those witnessing the Iowa cornfield turned ball diamond in the movie "Field of Dreams," patrons at the new Ephrata Community Pool this past weekend may have been asking if they were enjoying a small slice of heaven.

While some recent Memorial Day weekends were hampered by cloudy gray skies and chilly water temps, the weather this weekend –sans a few passing storms on Sunday — possibly could not have been ordered more perfectly for opening weekend at the eye-popping $2 million complex. With temperatures soaring into the low ’90s, anxious regulars, curious newcomers and those seeking relief from the heat, all came together to give the outdoor pool one of its best opening days in years.

That same movie also said with regard to that baseball field, "Build it and they will come." Ephrata Borough built the pool over the past nine months –and my did they come.

According to Dave Lloyd, executive director of the Ephrata Recreation Center, which runs the pool, more than 3,000 bathers dipped their toes in the new water over the holiday weekend, highlighted by an amazing 1,447 (including 604 general admission) stopping by Monday. To date, Lloyd said, 767 memberships, representing 2,430 members, have been sold. This figure shows a 36 percent increase in memberships sold over all of 2011. As a sidenote, Borough of Ephrata residents made up 486 of those memberships or 1,593 members. In 2011, 564 total memberships (394 in the borough) were sold during the entire season.

"What a fantastic weekend, we could not have had greater weather for the grand opening of the newly-improved Ephrata Community Pool," said Lloyd. "Most everything went off as planned, certainly Monday’s crowd tested our system and but our staff performed with great competence. I do want to thank all of our members and guests for their patience during the opening weekend as some of the bugs were worked out."

By 11 a.m. Saturday morning, a line to enter the new facility had already formed, reminiscent of the old days. But this time the line extended not along Vine Street but instead straight back through the grass almost all the way to the American Legion parking lot.

Following the traditional ribbon cutting, the first through the gates were Scott and Teresa Peters of Ephrata. That just left one more ceremonial moment before the crowds were officially let loose to enjoy the long-awaited facility.

Mayor Ralph Mowen took a spirited jaunt up to the top of the centerpiece 20-foot blue slide, before becoming the first to experience the lightning-quick twists and turns leading to splashdown. Popping his head out of the water, Mowen gave a smile and a thumbs up, before offering this review of the new attraction.

"You go fast!" he said, confirming that the speed rocked him from one side to the other heading down the flume slide. He recommended lying completely flat, with arms out to the side…and not being dry prior to departure.

"It’s fun," he confirmed, still smiling.

Long-time pool management veteran Steve Sweigart said the tube has a constant water flow. He tried it out the previous week and confirmed that it is "very fast," a review seconded by many young swimmers splashing down at the bottom of the run.

Visitor Larry Buehler also summed up the near-perfect opening day, as he viewed the young ones frolicking about.

"The kids are happy, so I’m happy."

In his opening remarks, Tom Reinhold, council chair of the pool project, told the gathering crowd prior to opening what he hoped for with this new pool.

"I’m hoping you are as proud of this as we are," he said, of the project which was about seven years in the making.

Later, he made reference to a photo which appeared in last week’s Review showing huge crowds from its earliest days back in the ’30s.

"I’m hoping we can re-create that photo in The Review," he said.

Of course opening day also marked the return of the snack bar, once one of the most popular features of the pool. For many years, the pool had offered only vending machines but Lily’s On Main and Main Theater owner Steve Brown was signed on to be the operator of the new snack bar.

Busy all weekend long with as many of five working behind the counter, Brown said he was very pleased by the opening weekend.

"It was everything I hoped for and more," he said, comparing to the possibility of the atmosphere being like a ‘three-month Ephrata Fair."

He said they did completely sell out of what could be the popular item of summer "funnel cake fries" as well as regular Coke but in other instances it was only a matter of making the short trek to his restaurant on Main Street to re-stock.

"There is limited storage space (at the pool) so we can only keep so much there," Brown said, highlighting the advantage of having his restaurant nearby.

"It was a great opening weekend. (We) really had no idea what items or how much would sell."

He said chicken fingers, fries, the aforementioned funnel fries, pizza, soft pretzels and soda were all hot selling items but Brown was quick to remind they also have "healthy stuff" available as well.

Earlier in the day, Brown also commented on the pool in general.

"It’s another one of the nice things Ephrata has," he said. "For a town it’s size Ephrata has so (much)."

The pool will be open 4-8 p.m. May 30-June 1, and June 4-7, upper pool only. Will be open regular hours all other days, including the last day of school at Ephrata, June 8 through Labor Day weekend.

Let summer begin!

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