Ready to take the plunge

The North Arundel Aquatic Center will offer wet fun for all ages -- at several temperatures

September 03, 2006|By Susan Gvozdas | Susan Gvozdas,Special to the Sun

An avid swimmer itching to start a swim team at her school, 16-year-old Brittany Casey is among the half-million people a year expected to use the new North Arundel Aquatic Center.

Six years in the making, the $12 million facility in Glen Burnie will open Saturday with a 25-meter, eight-lane competition pool, a leisure pool with a 135-foot slide and an adjacent hot tub.

It will also be the second public pool in Anne Arundel County; until now, North County residents have had to trek to Annapolis to swim at the Arundel Olympic Swim Center.

"It's about time the county put something up here," said Brittany's mother, Marlene Casey of Linthicum. "I think it's great."

The construction company still is installing lockers and finishing the overhead lighting, said Lisa Quick, the superintendent of North Park.

All of the work should be finished by Thursday, according to March-Westin, the West Virginia-based contractor that built the center.

It also boasts a children's play area, where kids can enter one end of the pool at floor level and splash under water sprays and buckets designed to tip and spill their contents when they fill with water.

At 82 degrees, the competition pool is three degrees cooler than the lap pool near the children's area, said Steve Shoemaker, the senior superintendent for March-Westin. Competitive swimmers at the Arundel Olympic Swim Center had complained that the water there was not cool enough for them while training, while senior citizens complained the water was too cold.

To fix that problem, the leisure pool at North Arundel will be set at 85 degrees for the general public, Shoemaker said. If swimmers really want to warm up, they can relax in the adjacent 100-degree hot tub, which turns off automatically after 15 minutes so swimmers won't overheat, Shoemaker said.

The curving slide sits atop a self-supporting concrete spiral stairway. From the top, swimmers can see the layout of the entire swimming area, which is enclosed in glass.

The pool area has special humidity controls to prevent the windows from sweating and fogging up, Shoemaker said. The purple and gray tiled inner walls make the area easier to clean.

The center will offer swimming lessons for children and adults, as well as beginner, intermediate and advanced aqua fitness classes.

The aquatic center eventually will employ 50 people, Quick said. As of Friday, she still needed to hire at least 20 lifeguards. Brittany and her friend, Robert Duvall, 15, might apply. They attend North County High School, which is among the county schools that plan to start swim teams this year, said Robert's mother, Nancy Duvall. The teams will compete at the aquatic center.

The pool would also provide Charlotte and Richard Sharp of Glen Burnie a place to entertain their seven grandchildren when they visit.

"We were excited when we heard about it," she said.

But at Flo's Breakfast and Sub Shop in Glen Burnie, owner Flo Loman was more sedate.

Her family sold 26 acres of farmland to the county as a site for the facility. Newspaper articles chronicling the project for the past five years are taped to the eatery's walls next to photos of the Loman family milking cows on the property.

As she closed up early Friday afternoon, Loman acknowledged the possibility that some of the crowds will stop for breakfast or a treat after a workout. But she lamented her dwindling lunch crowd as development has delivered an onslaught of competition along Crain Highway. "I think the traffic is going to go up there," Loman said.

The North Arundel Aquatic Center, 7888 Crain Highway, will have a grand opening ceremony and open house starting at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, with free swimming from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Regular hours will be from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays.; 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and $2.50 for children ages 3 and up.

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