It's not uncommon during the summer to call up your buddies and plan a trip to the city pool in most communities. In Ardmore, it's a little different.
Ardmore doesn't have any standard city pool, it goes above and beyond and rivals some major water theme parks, but still holds the smalltown charm associated with the community.
Ardmore Parks and Recreation Director Kevin Boatright said it was about seven years ago when the water park officially opened to the public.
"In the winter of '05, '06, we did a renovation to the pool and the bath house," Boatright said. "We gutted and replaced everything in the bath house and installed all the slides, zero depth entry, tumble buckets and shade areas in the pool."
That renovation brought an entirely new and updated look to 3rd Avenue NE between E and F Streets. What was once a 50-year-old "hole-in-the-ground" pool, was now an attraction in the city of Ardmore.
"It was just a standard rectangular pool, and by today's standards, that's not entertaining," Boatright said. "So we added the things you see at a major water park."
The renovation also served as a way to bring the pool-turned-water park up to safety codes.
"In retrospect, it's essentially a smaller water theme park, which is why we changed the name to the Community Water Park," Boatright said.
After Memorial Day, the park will open to hundreds of visitors each day for the summer. Normal hours run from 12:30-6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 2-6 p.m. on Sundays.
This is where most city pools would essentially draw the line as far as usage. But the water park caters to much more than "public swim."
"We do partner with the American Red Cross for swim lessons, we have special events, special reservations for parties before and after public swim times, and our own special events," Boatright said.
He also said there are a limited number of special reservation spots left, and to book one, contact the Parks and Recreation office at (580) 223-4844.
One of the park's special events in July, the Recreational Celebration Day event, adds special prizes, concession items games in the pool and door prizes for patrons that day.
"We do a lot throughout the year at the water park," Boatright said.
And the water park, while it rivals major water theme parks, is still affordable for most who wish to utilize it. Children under 2 years of age get in free, children from 3-11 is $4 and 12 years old and above is $5. In addition, the water park offers season passes based on 20 visits, so for the 3-11 range, a season pass would be $80 and $100 for 12 and above. There are also family season passes for all family members in a household for $250.
"As long as the family member lives in the household, they can be part of that pass," Boatright said. "If a cousin or other relative comes to town, unfortunately we can't put them on the same pass."
The season passes include a photo identification process so all users of the pass are documented and employees can determine whether the person using the pass is actually permitted to use it.
The water park even has a "scholarship" season pass for people who might be in financial hardship. Boatright said a written grant to the Ardmore Community Foundation sponsors 112 underprivileged children each year for season passes.
"They've been very gracious to us to write that grant," Boatright said. "We work with the local DHS office, give them forms to fill out and recommend families and children that could receive those passes so they don't have to pay anything."
Those lucky families will go through the same process as other family passes, including the photo ID, so only they can use it.
All season passes are for the entire summer, despite being based on 20 visits, "So if you frequent the pool a lot over the summer, that's the way to go for sure."
There are also discount rates for large groups and daycamp organizations that attend the pool during regular hours. They make sure that the daycamp groups aren't capacity size as well, to ensure there is still room for general public to come and utilize the pool as well.
"We try very hard to make sure it is accessible to a variety of groups at any given time of the day," Boatright said.
And what community water park, or pool for that matter, wouldn't be complete without a set of rules, right? Boatright said they have several in place, not only for the safety of patrons, but to help the pool run more efficiently and smoothly.
"We have an adult swim at the top of every hour excluding 1 p.m.," Boatright said. "For 10 minutes, you must be 18 or older to be in the pool, but this serves more than just a 'kid-free' time in the pool for adults."
During the 10-minute period, lifeguards will rotate and take a short break, and Boatright said it forces young children out of the pool and will make them use the restroom as opposed to using the pool.
"That's the idea at least," he said.
Something that sometimes causes some confusion is an age rule meant to help supervise young children. Children age 7 and under must be accompanied by an adult of at least 17 years of age.
"We have children that young that can't be expected to make a lot of decisions about their safety," Boatright said. "They must be attended by an adult and that adult must be in the park."
This causes some confusion for some parents, as they will drop their young children off thinking they can just stay by themselves for a few hours. "But that's not the case, we have to call some of those parents and tell them to either pick up their children, or leave an adult to supervise.
Another factor to this is that the accompanying adult must also pay admission to the park, even if they do not intend on using the pool.
"We have people say all the time they're just coming to watch their children or they're just coming to tan and won't use the pool," Boatright said. "We have a capacity (of 300) we have to watch and the admission is one way we do that, and we fill to capacity pretty regularly."
Interestingly enough, though, Boatright said during the hottest periods of the year, particularly on the weekends, the pool doesn't fill to capacity as most might think.
Then, of course, there is the lifeguard staff.
Boatright said lifeguards are typically older high school students or college students that need a summer job. All lifeguards fulfill several safety and first aid requirements so they can help if necessary.
The hiring of young lifeguards also poses an interesting situation each year, forcing the park to close in early August — often right at the peak of the month's hottest days.
"People always ask why we close so early, but the truth is, the kids we hire as lifeguards are going back to school," Boatright said. "We do a good job scheduling them I think, but at some point, those college kids go back to college and the high school students have to go back as well."
But at the moment, August is a long way off, and Boatright anxiously awaits the opening of the water park.
"We have tons of fun there, especially since the renovation, we've got such awesome stuff there for the kids and anyone else who comes," he said. "All the rules, policies, procedures, certifications, they're all to ensure that when people come, they have a good time."
And come they do. Boatright said people will come from all surrounding communities, as well as towns in Texas to use the park.
"We've got a good 50 mile radius of where people come from," Boatright said. "I think that shows that it's a fun place to be, otherwise they wouldn't be coming, especially from as far away as some of them do."