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Giant Video Board, Foosball, Table Tennis, Among New Amenities for Pool Season

(The Times photo by Betsy Reason)
Greg Conner, a volunteer and president of The Friends of Central Pool, an organization that operates Forest Park Aquatic Center in Noblesville, relaxes on the center’s new outdoor furniture in sight of the new LED video board.

Relaxing on the new comfy outdoor sectional furniture at Forest Park Aquatic Center in Noblesville, guests can easily watch the new LED video board overlooking the competition pool.

Adjacent are new foosball tables and new table tennis (“incredibly heavy-duty ping pong tables”) games, plus there is a life-size Connect 4 game in the baby pool area.

Private donations have funded 100 percent of the LED video board, measuring 31-½-foot by 12-½-foot and stands 15 feet off the ground. In past years, movies were occasionally shown in partnership with Noblesville Parks & Recreation. The new video board — which has been installed on the north side of the competition pool complex — will show movies during the day or evening, feature daily programming, with trivia and games, and offer a scoreboard for swimming, diving and water polo competitions. Plus, the video board will provide advertising exposure, at least three times an hour, through digital ads, logos and “about us” videos from the Aquatic Center’s multiple sponsors.

In an effort to entertain the nonswimmers who visit Forest Park Aquatic Center, $30,000 of a $40,000 Noblesville Township Trustees Grant was earmarked to provide non-swimmer outdoor entertainment that includes the aforementioned foosball tables, table tennis and Connect 4 game, plus a large sectional couch, with wicker frame and umbrella. The remaining $10,000 of the grant will go toward the Aquatic Center’s chemical cost, which was almost doubled from last year.

“We can’t thank those guys enough,” said Greg Conner of Noblesville, a volunteer and president of The Friends of Central Pool, an organization that operates Forest Park Aquatic Center and which celebrates its 25th anniversary this summer. He sat on the new outdoor furniture in full view of these new amenities, sharing more about the many projects implemented for Saturday’s opening of the 2022 pool season. On opening weekend, Forest Park Aquatic Center will be open from noon to 8 p.m. Saturday, noon to 6 p.m. Sunday and noon to 7 p.m. Memorial Day and again the following weekend, June 4 and 5. Starting June 6, weekday hours will also be noon to 7 p.m. Admission is $6 with annual membership still available.

Two sets of cornhole boards were made, painted and donated by local individual Doug Voegele.

Because the video board is so large, the concrete piers that it sits on are 4-foot in diameter by 15-feet deep, and steel columns behind it were put in place with a crane, Conner said. New electrical service and communication cable had to be installed. Some big sponsors, Gaylor Electric in Noblesville, Sign Craft Industries in Fishers and Beaty Construction in Boggstown (concrete foundations), did much of the work. American Structurepoint donated all of the engineering work of the structure and footings. Without their support the project would not have happened, Conner said.

The new comfy outdoor couch, with an optional umbrella, placed on a colorful outdoor rug near the restrooms and the lifeguard/First Aid center, is great for families who attend with caregivers.

Kim Bowling

“We have elderly people who come out and watch the kids and don’t really have a place to sit and watch,” said Kim Bowling, the pool’s manager, who joined Conner on the big comfy couch.

Conner said the new-projects list also includes replacing the aquatic center’s existing 300-gallon natural gas water-heating system with a tankless (on-demand) system, expected to save money, and also an added high-efficiency water-softening system. The new system will eliminate minerals in the water and orange staining while providing hot water in the locker room showers and sinks.

Another project is a filter and gravel replacement, which should be done every few years and will result in cleaner and safer water.

The concession stand menu has been expanded (hamburgers, hot dogs, pretzels, walking tacos, cookies, chicken tenders) and air conditioning has been added to improve the working positions.

The pump has been replaced in the baby pool and competition pool.

The pool heater is being cleaned before opening day.

The baby pool leaks are being repaired and the pool is completely being caulked and painted blue.

The Aquatic Center has received more than 100 additional chaise lounges, which will be placed at the pool and also at Morse Park & Beach, a donation from nearby Red Bridge Park public community pool, which is closing permanently.

Three large deck umbrellas, which were damaged in storms late last summer, have been replaced.

Several dead trees near the signage were removed, and the canopy of the large sycamore tree out front was raised, and many of the trees along the north fence line were trimmed. An arborist came out and determined trees affected by emerald ash borers, and brought more sun in the area of Fast Freddy Water Slide, which is near the video board.

Electrical repairs were made in the off-season to Fast Freddy Water Slide.

Besides all of the repairs, The Friends of Central Pool has joined the ranks of other nonprofits, in adding donor-level memberships with added benefits, which is already successful. Anyone who has already purchased memberships for the season may upgrade to a donor-level membership.

The donor-level memberships are for “those who really care about the pool and have the means to help us,” Conner said.

Longtime Friends of Central Pool donors Dale and Marge Ostler of Noblesville were the first private donors to write a check to help pay for the new LED video board. In 2021, during the 90th anniversary celebration year, the Ostlers were selected as co-chairs of a special endowment fund steering committee to focus on the continued development of the fund, which was established several years ago at the Hamilton County Community Foundation. Marge (Fields) Ostler was a lifeguard at the old pool in Forest Park. She and Dale, who were U.S. Masters swimmers, were early and significant supporters of the efforts to rehabilitate the center.

The Ostlers, fittingly, are the namesake of the highest level of three donor-level memberships that have been established this year for The Friends of Central Pool.

At a giving level of $300 (tax deductible) or more, The Ostler Society donor level benefits include: name on board recognizing all donor-level supporters, a 2022 Aquatic Center family membership up to six family members (additional family members can be added for $25 per member), 12 2022 Aquatic Center day passes, one benefit allowing one additional adult caregiver facility access when accompanying member dependents, 20 percent discount at the Aquatic Center poolside cafe, invitation to special membership events, membership e-newsletter, up to six Forest Park Aquatic Center T-shirts and one Forest Park Aquatic Center car decal.

Pop Brown

The next donor-level membership is the “Aunt Bert” Alliance, named after Bertha Brasher, who in 1934 accepted the role of Bath House Matron (the bath house was demolished in 2006). For the next 18 years, Noblesville youth fondly referred to her as Aunt Bert. She managed the pool and was responsible for instituting many creative community events each season, including family night. At a giving level of $150-$299 (tax deductible), The “Aunt Bert” Alliance donor-level benefits include: name on board recognizing donor-level supporters, a 2022 Aquatic Center individual membership, eight 2022 Aquatic Center day passes, 20 percent discount at Aquatic Center poolside cafe, invitation to special membership events, membership e-newsletter, one Aquatic Center T-shirt and one Aquatic Center car decal.

The third donor-level membership is the “Pop Brown” Ambassadors level, named after Horace “Pop” Brown, the mayor of Noblesville from 1922-25 and 1935-38. In 1925, Brown sold his 118-acre family farm to the City of Noblesville, for the creation of Forest Park. At a giving level of $50-$149 (tax deductible), The Pop Brown Ambassadors donor-level, designed for those who want to support the Aquatic Center but don’t visit the facility on a regular basis, benefits include: name on board, four 2022 Aquatic Center day passes, 20 percent in Aquatic Center poolside cafe, invitation to special membership events, membership e-newsletter, one Aquatic Center T-shirt and one Aquatic Center car decal.

The “Beautiful New Forest Park Pool” opened Thursday, June 18, 1931, a “gala event” with “everybody welcome” and “exhibition swimming.” The 2021 season marked the 90th anniversary of a Noblesville pool being in Forest Park.

In the early 1970s, they got to a point where the existing pool had used its useful life. “Thankfully the county and the newly formed parks department came to the rescue and built the pool that we’re at today,” Conner has said.

“If you fast forward to the 1990s, the county made the decision that they weren’t going to open the pool anymore. That’s when Friends of Central Pool and Doug Church and the group that Conner is a part of stepped in and got involved in a public-private membership,” he said.

There is always talk about what new amenities can be added. The splash pad area was added a few years ago as was the toddler pool. An AquaZip’N zipline and a basketball goal are the two newest amenities in the pool added in 2021. “We’ve tried to add new stuff every year,” he said.

The county did it right when the pools were built. “It’s got really great bones. There is nothing wrong with either one of the pools. Always things that need to be upgraded … filtration systems that need to get changed. We put a lot of money into our locker rooms (in 2021). But in terms of the facility, we’ve got something to be proud of,” Conner has said.

In 2021, membership was the highest ever, with well over 700 memberships.” The gate attendance and concessions sales were also up in 2021. He said, “I think a lot of it (the attraction) is the investment we’re making in the facility and getting the word out.” He also attributed it to less people traveling out of town.

He has said in the past couple of years, they’ve tried to reach out to neighborhoods in Noblesville that don’t have swimming pools or even those that do have swimming pools that come out here to go down the water slide or jump off the diving boards, “cool stuff that neighborhood pools don’t have.”

Starting in 2020, they’ve been able to find out where guests and members hail from thanks to their new system. He said the memberships draw from all of the major neighborhoods.

He has said they have a lot of local employees, and they try to hire them early on to work at the front desk. “If they have aspirations to become a lifeguard, we’d like to be their employer all through high school and college.”

Bowling, who is also the pool’s concession manager, has expanded the concession menu again this year, including “real” Dippin’ Dots ice cream. Credit and cash are accepted.

Bowling is in charge of lifeguards and has the pool fully staffed for the season. “I did not have problems with staffing this year,” she said. There are 27 lifeguards (12 new) and 33 front-desk workers. All starts this week. Bowling, in 2021, became certified to teach and is now able to certify lifeguards at the Aquatic Center, with all training and re-certifications for free, a benefit for working there. Lifeguards also receive a red lifeguard swimsuit, whistle and T-shirt.

She said the Aquatic Center can be rented for private functions. “This year we’ve had more booked earlier than we’ve ever had.” The cost is $600 for two hours after pool hours or $100 for the deck for four hours, including lifeguards, or $175 for just the baby pool for two hours. There is a different rate for individual pools.

The venue also has some large swim meets this season, during which the diving and competition pools, which each hold half-a-million gallons of water, will be closed on those dates. The toddler pool and splash pad will remain open, as will Morse Park & Beach, which is included in pool memberships.

With the permanent closing of Red Bridge Park public pool in Cicero, Conner said, outside of the Monon Center (in Carmel), Forest Park Aquatic Center “is the last outdoor pool in Hamilton County that’s open to the public.”

– Contact Betsy Reason at betsy@thetimes24-7.com.