Eye on KELOLAND: Wading through winter

Eye on KELOLAND

SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — We’re reaching that part of winter when a severe case of cabin fever might be setting in. Lounging along a sandy beach is only an option if you have a plane ticket to somewhere warm and sunny. But people in Sioux Falls can still enjoy a refreshing dip in the water, indoors. In fact, the latest attendance figures show the Midco Aquatic Center has drawn more than 200,000 people for its third-straight year, more than doubling expectations from when the facility first opened in 2016.

Keeping fit, by staying afloat.

“We get an arm workout, we get a leg workout, we do lots of abs, get a really good ab workout,” Claudia Baron of Sioux Falls said.

Claudia Baron attends this fitness class at the Midco Aquatic Center twice a week.

“I love this facility. We’ve lived in Vermillion, we’ve lived in Arkansas, this is the best facility I’ve ever been to, it’s awesome,” Baron said.

Year-round programs like this fitness class are a big draw at the aquatic center.

“I’d like to think that we’ve got some innovative programs, we’ve got some great fitness classes and the fact that it’s open to the public all the time, I think that lets people know that they can come and use the facility,” Recreation Program Coordinator Jean Pearson said.

The wading pool is also a popular aquatic attraction.

“And he likes to splash and he likes to have fun,” Lisa Gibson of Crooks, SD said.

2-year-old Hendricks Gibson and his mom are regulars here.

“We try to come at least twice a month, because we got a pass for a birthday present, so it works out well,” Gibson said.

The novelty of an indoor public pool in the heart of Sioux Falls isn’t showing signs of wearing off. The aquatic center opened in the fall of 2016. It’s drawn more than 200,000 people every year since, far exceeding earlier projection of more modest visitor numbers.

“When we were first in the process of building this facility, our consultants told us we can anticipate about 80,000 people a year and we’ve exceeded 200,000 people on the first three years of our opening. So, we’re very proud that people are seeing this as an opportunity and they’re utilizing the facility for their needs,” Pearson said.

With this being an indoor facility, you’d think its busiest time of year would be right now, in the middle of winter, when people can’t hang-out by an outdoor pool. But it turns out, the Midco Aquatic Center sees its most visitors during the summer months, and June and July in particular.

“When we took a look at the data following our first full year of operation, we were surprised too, to see that June and July were our busiest months of the calendar year. And a lot of that can be attributed to people having more time to come to the pool. The outdoor pools are only open from 1-8 p.m. and with us opening at 5:30 in the morning, weekdays, that allows opportunity for people to come in to enjoy the facility,” Pearson said.

Swimmers seeking protection from the scorching effects of the sun are another reason for the aquatic center’s strong showing during the summer.

“Basically, I don’t get a sunburn in here. I don’t have to worry about my skin,” Baron said.

The Midco Aquatic Center should remain a big draw for swimmers with city plans to upgrade and replace older outdoor pools in Sioux Falls still years away. Here, there’s no concern about attendance hitting a ceiling yet, as long as they following a business model of providing special programs and events that have proven successful from the start..

“Obviously, we’d love to see more usage, but sitting at 200,000 people a year is pretty phenomenal,” Pearson said.

Swim meets also help boost attendance numbers at the Midco Aquatic Center. The Jackrabbit Invite starts February 7. That’s followed by the Summit League Swimming and Diving Champions later this month. To check the schedule of special events, click here

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