A grand opening for Garden Rapids: Garden City's new aquatics facility opens

Meghan Flynn
Garden City Telegram
Savannah Wilson, 13 rides an innertube down the blue slide Saturday during the opening day of the Garden Rapids at the Big Pool.  Area residents had a chance to try out the water park for free on the day, although Mother Nature didn't cooperate with temperatures in the 60s and cloudy skies.

People showed up in droves for the grand opening of Garden Rapids at The Big Pool Saturday at noon. 

The cool temperatures were not a deterrent to the 500-plus people that attended opening day.

Roy Cessna, Garden City mayor, said it was a great day to be out in Garden City and to remember the past of The Big Pool but still celebrate the future with Garden Rapids. 

Jennifer Cunningham, Garden City Assistant City Manager was excited to open the facility to community members as that's who they built it for. 

Catlin Milligan flies through the air toward the water as she goes off one of the Fly Time slides Saturday during the grand opening of the Garden Rapids at the Big Pool. Milligan was part of the design team for the water park.

Past Garden City Commissions have tried to do things to The Big Pool but were never able to. Cunningham knew to get something done with the facility it would have to be approached differently than just creating a committee with people who were on both sides – some who wanted to keep it and some who didn't, so they took it to the people. 

Cunningham said over a six-week period, in January to February 2019, they hosted presentations and talked to students from third to 12th grade, and took the feedback from those to create something new that still honored the past.

"When we sat down at the table and said what do people care about, we realized that they cared about the kids," she said. "Whether it's your own kids or whether it's kids in your community or whether it's your neighbor kids or whatever it is, that's what everyone cares about – we care about the quality of life for you all."

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Cunningham hopes the facility meets everyone's expectations.

Area residents float and walk along the Lazy River path Saturday during the grand opening of the Garden Rapids at the Big Pool.

"With that, we hope that we delivered, we hope that we brought everything that you hoped that it would have, and we're just really excited that you're all here to do it," she said. 

Community member Beth Tedrow, who is also a member of the Garden City Community College's Board of Trustrees, said Garden Rapids is beautiful. 

Tedrow was a lifeguard at The Big Pool from when she was a junior in high school until she had her own children and a little beyond and also ran the Red Cross Swimming program as the water safety chairman for Finney County. 

There are a lot of great memories and stories from The Big Pool, and she was sad to see it go but is happy at how Garden Rapids turned out and know that her children, grandchildren and great children would love it as well if they still lived in the area.

Adian Pichardo, 15, left, takes a shot as he and Jeo Baires, 15, shoot some hoops from in one of the pools Saturday at the Garden Rapids at the Big Pool.

"You got to go forward," she said. "We had so many problems that it has to be (redone). I will never forget my memories, but this is wonderful."

Sonia Duro believes that Garden Rapids is a great improvement from The Big Pool. 

"It was pretty sad when they demoed the whole thing, it was here for so many year, but now you look at it and it's a great addition, I think it a was a great turnaround," she said. 

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Teenagers Aleah Eatmon, 15, and Savmore Nyamakope, 14, think Garden Rapids is "really fun."

Eatmon said it's a great tourist attraction and great place for teenagers with the slides and high dives. 

"I like the high dive in Dodge, so it's good that they brought it here and that's fun for teenagers too," she said. "I like the kids section, it looks like they're having a lot of fun."

Ryan Harchetar, 8, splashes into the water as he finishes a ride on one of the slides Saturday during opening day for the Garden Rapids at the Big Pool.

Nyamakope agrees. 

"I really like it a lot," she said. "It's kind of scary on some of the slides but it's fun at the same time. (The Fly Time slide) is fun, I really enjoyed it. At first I was so terrified, but at the moment it was fun when I got over the edge." 

Sisters Shaylin, Alexus and Veronica Garcia were surprised at the facility, it wasn't like anything they were expecting.

Shaylin Garcia, 15, likes that it has more slides and things to do than the old facility.

Alexus Garcia, 15, agrees. 

"You don't have to do one thing and get bored of doing it," she said. 

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Aaron Stewart, Garden City Parks and Recreation director, said it was great to see people come out and enjoy the waterpark on Saturday and is proud of all the work by the city team, construction team, the designers and this staff did to get the park ready. 

"When just over the past couple weeks, how far it's come in the construction phase to get it to be able to be here today is amazing," he said. "The fact that people are in here and having fun and we're getting to celebrate the start of summer so to speak and Memorial weekend. I don't know that I can explain it, It's just awesome to see them in here."