After nearly two years of design, preparation and thanks in large part to a very generous donation from the Bierman Family Foundation, the new Bierman Family Aquatic Center officially opened at the Merrill Area Recreation Complex (MARC) in early June.
Aside from a few learning experiences, Parks and Recreation Director Dan Wendorf reports the inaugural season of the center being a “huge success.”
“We couldn’t be happier with how things turned out,” Wendorf said. “Thanks to the amazing amount of support we received from the community, our first season being open was above and beyond what we ever expected.”
Although Wendorf and his staff are still in the process of crunching numbers, preliminary figures indicate the center averaged daily attendance between 250-300 visitors, with a cumulative estimate of 20-25,000 on the season.
“We were hoping for a high attendance, but I don’t think anyone was expecting that high of a turnout every day!” Wendorf adds with a grin. “I think the biggest learning experience we had as a staff, was learning day by day how to accommodate and serve the volume of visitors we had every day.”
Aside from a steady influx of community members, the center hosted an Aqua Jays swim meet on June 25, consisting of 12 teams from around the state.
In addition, Wendorf indicates a consistent draw to the center from other communities both near and far.
“We hoped to draw as many visitors as possible and we were very excited to meet families from as far away as Minocqua and Marshfield, visiting the center on a consistent basis. I think that was the biggest surprise of the season. It’s just a good feeling to know word spread about what we have to offer here at our new aquatic center and we were able to draw new visitors to our community.”
With the positive aspects of a successful season, comes areas for improvement and Wendorf cites a few areas of consideration.
“We are considering a few adjustments, but nothing on a large scale,” he adds. “To make any large scale changes would mean an area for major improvement needed and I just don’t see anything like that at this point. We had a very successful season, but one area we are considering adjusting is possible designated evening rates.”
As Wendorf explains, center staff had been approached regarding evening rates for visitors who were unable to attend during peak daytime hours.
Another area Wendorf and his staff are evaluating is promoting special events such as pool parties and birthday parties, as well as swim testing for youngsters.
“Our ultimate goal is to provide a safe and enjoyable experience for our community,” Wenforf explains. “We would like to be more diligent next summer in swim testing for our young visitors, to assure they are safe in our diving and deep water areas.”
Swim testing will consist of center staff asking youngsters to perform swimming tasks to assure youngsters can safely participate and navigate diving and deep water activities.
Although Wendorf mentions a few areas of evaluation, he assures evaluation of aquatic center policy and procedure will continue throughout the off-season months.
“Our ultimate goal is to not only provide the safest and most enjoyable aquatic center experience for our community, but we want to assure we are doing everything we can do on our end to accomplish that goal,” Wendorf adds in closing. “It was a rewarding experience to finally open the Bierman Family Aquatic Center to the community and see everyone’s hard work and participation come to fruition. It was a pleasure to see the amount of kids and families who utilized the bike routes, to bike and walk out here this season as well.
“We soon realized the number of bike racks we had at first was inadequate and we were more than happy to bring in other bike racks from other parks.
“I would like to once again thank the Bierman Family Foundation for providing this world class facility to our community.
“The summer of 2016 was a memorable one due to having an aquatic center in our community once again. People came from near and far to enjoy themselves in our beautiful facility. I am especially thankful for our community members for their support and patience this season. The first year for anything is always a learning process. We intend to take full advantage of that learning process and promise to assure the Bierman Family Aquatic Center only improves as the years go by.”