Residents will have the opportunity to dive into the pools at the newly renovated Highlands Park Aquatic Center May 28.

Residents will have the opportunity to dive into the pools at the newly renovated Highlands Park Aquatic Center May 28.

The center closed at the end of July to undergo a $7.6-million transformation. The grand opening of the aquatic center, 245 S. Spring Road, will be at 11 a.m. May 28.

The Westerville Department of Parks and Recreation has seen a lot of anticipation for the opening of the renovated center, department director Randy Auler said.

So far, 1,200 season passes to the pool have already been sold, Auler said. In past years, the city typically sells only about 25 passes before the season starts.

"There's a lot of community excitement," he said.

Auler said the department anticipates it will sell between 4,500 and 6,000 pool passes, which does not include individual daily admission. The center generally sells around 4,000 season passes, he said.

Despite the upgrades at the center, the city is maintaining the same pricing for the passes and daily admission this year, Auler said.

The renovated aquatic center features leisure pool, a zero-entry toddler pool with slide, a slide tower with a speed slide and a body slide, a toddler spray playground, a spray playground for older children, a lazy river and an eight-lane, 25-meter pool with a diving well, plus a rentable cabana and an outdoor space complete with a 42-inch grill, refrigerator and outdoor cooking space.

The renovations at the center also were aimed at making the facility more environmentally friendly.

The center features green roofs planted with vegetation on some of its buildings, which reduces stormwater runoff by between 50 and 90 percent and increases cooling efficiency by about the same amount.

There also is a rain garden on the site, which includes plants that are meant to absorb rainwater to reduce stormwater runoff. Areas in the parking lot and throughout the aquatic center also are planted with vegetation that is meant to reduce stormwater runoff, Auler said.

"It creates less water runoff into the storm system," he said. "Just the landscaping material reduces the concrete area."

The parking lot uses a special concrete that allows rainwater to filter through it and into the ground rather than running off and into storm sewers, Auler said.

The base of the parking lot is concrete that was torn up, crushed and recycled from the park's former parking lot, he said.

The center's pool systems also are more efficient, Auler said. Though the new aquatic center holds between 50,000 and 75,000 more gallons of water than the old aquatic center, there is one less pool pump needed to maintain the center.

The parks and recreation department is working to secure a federal grant that will allow the city to expand the existing wetlands within the park and improve its quality.

One feature that is planned for the park but won't be installed for some time alludes to the environmental focus of the center, Auler said. The city will sell mosaic tiles at Fourth Friday events that will be used to create a mosaic on the center's bathhouse.

"It will look like a wetlands when it's done, with animals in the wetlands," Auler said.

The city is seeking Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification through the U.S. Green Building Council for the main building, which includes offices, public restrooms and showers, and a first-aid station, said Mike Hooper, parks and recreation department development administrator.

Hooper said Westerville is close to submitting paperwork for the certification, and once that's done, it will take several weeks for the city to hear back on whether the certification is granted.

The city hopes that the center's design will be energy-efficient enough to qualify for a LEED silver award, Hooper said.