CLARKSVILLE — A little drizzle was no match for the excitement Clarksville students had Thursday for the chance to test out Clarksville Cove — the town's newly remodeled Caribbean-themed aquatic center.
After a ribbon cutting ceremony, dozens of excited children took to the water, slipping down the brand new water slides, swimming in the heated lap pool and running through the spray pad, squealing as the overhead water bucket would tip and drench them all once again.
“I love the slides,” 9-year-old Kaden Harvey said “They're really twisty and fun and the tubing slide ramps up and down.”
He and his brother, 7-year-old Kai, were bursting with excitement at the new park.
“The boys really seem to be enjoying it,” their mother, Jennifer, said. The family recently moved to New Albany from Texas. “We had a couple of splash pads that were close to us [in Texas] but it wasn't this big with the pool and the water slides.
“I think they are definitely going to want to be here a lot.”
Christine Kindo and her daughter, 2-year-old Hannah, skipped bringing their swimsuits Thursday because the weather had been a little nasty but they'll be back, she said.
“We can't wait to come back on a warmer day,” she said. “The kids are probably having a blast.”
The aquatic center was closed for the 2016 season to complete the $3.7 million upgrades to the facility — new water slides, a splash pad area for multiple ages, upgrades to the pool decking, welcome area, pool-heating system, concession and birthday party areas and new energy-efficient filtration system.
“Today we cut the ribbon on more than an aquatic center; we cut the ribbon on a new chapter of Clarksville's redevelopment journey,” town council member and redevelopment commission president A.D. Stonecipher said. “Today we complete a two-year pivot toward investing in quality of place for the residents and taxpayers of Clarksville.”
The first steps in upgrades to the center came a few years ago, when the decades-old facility started showing its age, with broken pipes and a filtration system that was reaching outdated.
But the project fits into a grander plan for the town — to invest in redevelopment and revitalization in south Clarksville, the original part of the town.
As the first aquatic center in the area more than 20 years ago, it was time to take a look at improvements that would carry water with new generations of Clarksville residents. Kaluzny said this also gave them the opportunity to look at restructuring itself with year-round school.
“With school only being out about seven weeks, we had to think about how we were going to sustain a facility such as this,” he said.
While before, the aquatic center stuck to the traditional hallmark dates for pools and water parks, opening around Memorial Day and closing around late July. The center's new form will allow for a lot more flexibility, keeping the splash pads open longer and extending the season.
“It will give us a lot of functionality,” Kaluzny said.
Clarksville Cove officially opens Saturday and town leaders say they hope it will be a great asset for decades.
“It's a turning point in south Clarksville,” Kaluzny said. “We're proud to be part of the community out here. I think the south Clarksville Plan is ambitious but it's really something that's going to be spectacular here in the next few years.”