As passes go on sale for the newly renovated Highlands Park Aquatic Center, the Westerville Department of Recreation and Parks is working to build excitement for the Memorial Day opening.

As passes go on sale for the newly renovated Highlands Park Aquatic Center, the Westerville Department of Recreation and Parks is working to build excitement for the Memorial Day opening.

On April 1 -- the first day passes go on sale for the new aquatic center -- the department will host a "First Pass Splash," from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at the Community Center Watering Hole, 350 N. Cleveland Ave. The cost is $5 a person.

The pool party will include the city's new inflatable water obstacle course.

Anyone who purchases a season pass to Highlands Pool on April 1 will be entered into a drawing to receive a full reimbursement for that pass.

Those buying passes from April 1 through May 21 will be entered into a drawing to win a private pool party for 20 people at Highlands Park before the pool's opening day.

"We did it last year and it was a really well-received event. We think it will be better received this year," said Toni-Ann Schorling, parks and recreation department support services coordinator.

Residents who held passes to the pool last year will receive a 10-percent discount on passes this year and will be entered into the drawing for the pool party.

Also during April, anyone who purchases a pass to the aquatic center will be entered into a weekly drawing for a $50 parks and recreation department gift card.

New this year, the department has planned a "Where's Oliver?" contest. The department's mascot, Oliver the Otter, will be around Westerville from April 29 through May 21.

Those who take a picture of Oliver and submit it to the department will be entered into a raffle for a free pass to the aquatic center.

"He's just going to be out there. He might just be walking around town one day, and you might just happen to see him," Schorling said. "That's kind of cool for the kids to do. They'll like that one."

Renovations to the Highlands Park Aquatic Center continue to be on schedule and on budget, recreation and parks department director Randy Auler said.

The shells for the new pools are in, he said, and the work is now focused on the roofs and interior components of the buildings.

The renovated center will include a tot pool; a slide-and-spray playground; a large leisure pool; an eight-lane, 25-meter pool with a diving well; a lazy river and patio space.

Renovations to the 38-year-old aquatic center carried a $7.6-million price tag when the city approved bids on the project last year.

Auler said he expects to see a high number of passes to the aquatic center sold this year.

"We believe we'll have a good turnout. People are excited for what they've seen of the park," he said. "We believe we'll have a big turnout and people will be really pleased with the product."

Passes to the park also carry a good value this year, Auler said, because the department kept last year's rates in place for the new center.

"They're going to get a lot more value for their money this year, so we're really excited about that," he said.

After the center opens, the city plans to host "The Big Splash," a party at the park to celebrate the renovations. It's planned for noon to 6 p.m. June 12; normal admission prices will apply. There will be games, contests, karaoke and appearances by the Highlands pirates and Oliver the Otter.

Schorling said the department is looking forward to celebrating the new center.

"This is a really big deal," she said. "This pool took a long time in the making. The residents are 100 percent behind it, so we wanted to do as much as possible for them."