Grove City's Big Splash season expected to open May 29; Memorial Day parade canceled

Memorial Day parade canceled

Alan Froman
ThisWeek group
Kelly Sutherland, Grove City's recreation superintendent, and Jacob Hooker, general manager for the Columbus division of SwimSafe Pool Management, stand near the Big Splash Family Aquatics Center, 2831 Southwest Blvd. SwimSafe Pool Management will manage Big Splash, which is expected to open May 29.

The Big Splash Family Aquatics Center will open for the 2021 season May 29.

It will mark the first time since 2018 that the pool opening will occur as usual during Memorial Day weekend.

The Big Splash season was canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the opening was delayed about a week in 2019 due to the first phase of a two-year refurbishing project.

"It's going to be so good to welcome people back to the Big Splash," Grove City recreation superintendent Kelly Sutherland said. "Somehow it didn't really feel like summer without the pool being open."

For the first time, the city has contracted with an outside company to serve as pool manager.

Cincinnati-based SwimSafe Pool Management will provide management services, marking the first time the city has not managed the pool itself.

"Our pool supervisor resigned last June, and we decided to see if it might be more economical to contract elsewhere for pool management," Sutherland said. 

The city will paying SwimSafe, which oversees operations at several central Ohio municipal pools, $163,000 to manage the Big Splash, she said.

That represents a savings of about $61,000 a year, Sutherland said.

"For us, it means we won't have to go through the process of hiring lifeguards and maintaining the pool and the grounds, which meant arranging for city maintenance staff to work at the pool," she said. "SwimSafe will be handling all of that.

"Residents really won't notice any big difference (in pool management), except that personnel at the pool will be wearing T-shirts with a different logo," Sutherland said. "They'll still buy season passes online from the city."

A number of policy changes are expected to be in place when the season opens to ensure public safety, she said.

"We're still (about six weeks) away from opening day, and COVID conditions and regulations regarding municipal pools could change between now and then, so we may end up loosening policies or putting in additional policies by the time we get to May 29 or at some point during the season," she said.

As it stands, the Big Splash, 2831 Southwest Blvd., will be open only to season pass holders, Sutherland said.

Season passes will be sold individually online starting May 1. The cost is $50 for Grove City or Jackson Township residents and $100 for others.

"Each individual person will need a pass, so a family of five would need to purchase five passes," she said.

Pass holders will have to schedule a "wave" or time block up to 48 hours before their visit, Sutherland said. No day passes will be sold.

Three "waves" will be held daily, from 11 a.m. to 1:45 p.m., 2:30 to 5:15 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m., she said.

The time between waves will be used for cleaning, Sutherland said. 

A limit of about 170 people will be admitted during each wave, she said. During normal times, the Big Splash could accommodate about 800 guests, she said.

The Big Splash will be open daily May 29 through Sept. 6, except for days when South-Western City School District students are in session (June 1-3; Aug. 25-27 and 30-31 and Sept. 1-3.)

Guests will be required to wear a mask or face covering and maintain proper social distancing protocols when they are not in the pool, Sutherland said.

The city has wrapped up its two-year $446,000 restoration project at the Big Splash.

The work was mostly completed during the off-season and included replacing the water jets arrayed around the interior of the pool, resurfacing the pool floor and replacing the coping stones capping the pool walls.

Tiles with the same hue have been installed on the pool floor to eliminate the remnants of the stripes marking the racing lanes that used to be in place at the Big Splash, Sutherland said.

More information about the upcoming Big Splash season and the planned rules are available at grovecityohio.gov/parks-and-recreation/parks-facilities/the-big-splash.

The page includes a FAQ feature about the pool, Sutherland said.

Memorial Day parade canceled again

Although the Big Splash will open Memorial Day weekend, other community activities associated with the holiday will not be held again this year, Mayor Richard "Ike" Stage said.

The annual Memorial Day parade held on the holiday and the Grove City Community Winds concert scheduled May 29 will not be held due to the worsening COVID-19 coronavirus conditions in Franklin County, Stage said.

"We were optimistic about the parade, but with the county going back to the purple level, we're just not going to be able to do it," he said.

The annual Memorial Day ceremony, which, like the parade, is hosted by American Legion Paschall Post 164 and Veterans of Foreign War 8198, still will be held. The ceremony will be at 11 a.m. at Grove City Cemetery, 3605 Grove City Road.

Other summer events are still on tap, Stage said.

"We do plan to hold a Fourth of July fireworks event, and EcoFest is on for Aug. 14th," he said.

The Summer Sizzle Concert Series is scheduled to start June 25.

The status of the Grove City Homecoming Celebration in the Town Center is still to be determined, Stage said.

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