A community pools together

By: 
Sydney Stivers
LAC Assistant Manager

As the sun sets, a few swimmers enjoy an evening of water events at the Lewistown Aquatic Center.
Photo courtesy of Mary Kepler

Days are getting shorter, school is in session and the inaugural summer of the Lewistown Aquatics Complex is coming to an end. Unarguably, there have been minor delays and challenges throughout the duration of this project. However, after looking back at the past few years, the LAC renovation should be deemed nothing short of a success. In fact, this multimillion-dollar project is a superb representation of what can be accomplished when a community comes together.
In 2013, community members banded together to form the Friends of the Pool. They began the project with three visions: to achieve community support, to raise funds for the project and to establish a long-term endowment, which will fund the growth and continued improvement of the Lewistown Aquatics Complex for years to come. Since then, the Friends of the Pool group collected over $1.5 million in private donations and grants. The Fergus County Recreation District supplemented that with another $1.4 million after 65 percent of voters supported the project. Today, the pool is essentially completed, and patrons come from across Montana to enjoy the renovated pool, as well as the new slides and splash deck.
Though the obvious upgrades include new features and equipment, the project has resulted in evident operational improvements, both in pool maintenance and upkeep, as well as in patron safety.
Head lifeguard Siri Pederson commented on the improved swimmer safety: “I’m not sure of the exact numbers, but we haven’t had to pull as many kids from the water, especially because the slides don’t exit into the pool anymore.”
These improvements have resulted in slow days at the pool being few and far between. In fact, the pool has remained consistently busy throughout the summer. Since the beginning of June, community members have purchased over 780 season passes.
That alone should indicate that the LAC brings community members together during summer months, however, here are a few more numbers: This summer, the LAC employed around 30 high school-aged students. That means approximately one out of every twelve students at Fergus High School spent their summer working at the pool. Those same 30 students taught children stroke development and water safety in over 530 purchased lessons.
There is no arguing that the Aquatics Complex is vital to the community. Take another example: the evening of the official LAC grand opening saw over 600 community members come to enjoy free swimming, entertainment, and food supplied by Harry’s Place and Custom Cuts. That is about one out of every ten citizens in Lewistown.
Moving forward, the Lewistown Aquatics Complex will continue to evolve into the best possible facility for the community. Shade structures have been purchased and will be installed by the 2017 swim season. Additional guards are being trained to ensure that the pool will remain open into the school year. And best of all, the LAC and the Lewistown Sea Lions are beginning preparations for the 2017 State Swim Meet, which is to occur at our brand new facility.
This has been a remarkable project that could not have been completed without such wonderful support from the community.
Pool manager, Mary Kepler, expressed her sentiments about the results of the project, saying, “I am very proud of what we have accomplished at our pool. Seeing kids having fun, families spending time together and watching people of all ages enjoy the water is truly a joy for me. Sun, water, laughter: basic elements of life, right?”

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