The time to enjoy a dip in the four-acre Florence Aquatic Center is likely at an end as city officials announced plans Tuesday to replace the closed pool with a park.
The aquatic center that features a pool and lazy river was opened in 2003 on the Florence Government Center campus off Ewing Boulevard.
The water world has been closed since the end of the 2019 season with COVID-19 restrictions being to blame for 2020 and 2021 closures.
Construction on a new park on the aquatic center grounds could start as early as this September once decisions are made on what amenities to include, according to the release sent from the mayor's office on behalf of all council members.
The opening of a new park could happen as early as the end of 2022.
Opposition to the replacement plan has sprung up from community members with a Change.org petition garnering nearly 7,500 signatures in a week's time.
Ideas floated by the city for potential new park amenities include splash pads and spray grounds, a multipurpose event lawn and an adventure playground with features to climb, jump, and slide, and zip on.
There could also be room for festivals, shows, exercise classes, farmer’s markets, family movie nights, and ice skating in the winter, according to the release.
The aquatic center is typically open for a 10-week season, whereas a new park and community event center will have a chance to be open year-round, officials said in the release.
“We’re very excited about the opportunities this new park offers the whole community and it will be great fun exploring the possible features that could be added,” Mayor Diane Whalen said in the release.
Whalen announced that the council doesn't want to make a decision on their own, and community input will be sought.
Council members, prompted partially by the pandemic's closure of the aquatic center, raised questions about whether it should ever reopen.
Council decided a park that will be free to everyone without admission would be more fiscally responsible.
The cost to operate the center a day is on average about $7,500, said Linda Chapman, Florence's chief financial officer in the release. The average daily attendance at the aquatic center has represented about 2 percent of Florence's population. Florence's population was listed as about 34,000 people in U.S. Census Bureau estimates for 2019.
Based on a population of 34,000, the average daily aquatic center attendance would be about 680 people.