Greenwood residents have waited nearly three years for a new pool, and Saturday, that wait will end.
Freedom Springs will open to the public at 11 a.m., after years of planning, designing and construction.
Lounge on the lazy river, sunbathe on one of the 350 deck chairs, rent one of five cabanas for an entire day, shoot down any of three water slides, take a plunge from the high dive and enjoy hot dogs, pizza, ice cream and more in the shade of three picnic shelters.
Go ahead, Greenwood residents, you deserve it.
The last time the city had a pool, it was roughly 60 years old and had crumbling concrete in the locker rooms, which ultimately led to its closure. Discussion about building an aquatic park in Greenwood began in 2003. When the park was proposed in 2008, a petition shot it down. Greenwood’s lone pool eventually closed in 2012.
During the nearly three years of planning, designing and building the new aquatic center, many have driven by Freedom Park and looked at the water slides towering over the playground in the distance like an amusement park.
“Greenwood deserves this,” Greenwood Parks and Recreation Director Rob Taggart said. “We’ve been waiting on this aquatic facility now for over two years. It’s a great thing for the community.”
Preparation for the grand opening this weekend included adding bus routes specifically to the pool, connecting city trails and bike paths, training lifeguards, hiring concession stand workers and administrative staff and marketing the park’s inaugural summer across central Indiana.
Construction began in 2014, shortly after the city approved spending $7.2 million on the new center. The city had planned to spend up to $10 million from the city’s tax-increment financing districts. Construction was slowed or even stopped at times by wet and cold weather. So work continued until the final days before the pool’s grand opening, with dozens working every day of the week.
Other preparations had to be done at the same time, including training employees, developing policies and rules and making the center look ready for swimmers.
“An amenity of this extent was a challenge as much as it was fun,” project manager John Shell said. “Pools are full now, at their normal use level, and we have all the deck chairs out, the landscaping is done. So the ‘wow’ factor hits right away.”
More than 60 employees were hired for the pool, including 50 certified lifeguards and 10 more employees who will be responsible for concessions and administrative duties. All employees created and reviewed the park’s emergency action plan, too.
The concession workers have been trained and educated with the Safe-Serve Program, which teaches proper food handling, including sanitation and correct serving temperatures of all food. Because outside food and drinks are not allowed, the park has nearly a dozen menu items. The concessions were ordered and will remain stocked, with enough food to feed Freedom Springs’ full capacity of 1,500 people.
Officials said they expect to be close to that maximum daily.
The park has prompted calls and emails from not only Greenwood residents but also those from neighboring communities like Beech Grove, Franklin and Shelbyville excited for the park to open. The anticipation has park officials estimating roughly 74,000 guests will visit Freedom Springs this summer, Taggart said.
The center has been heavily marketed. They’ve partnered with the Indianapolis Indians to help promote opening day, sponsoring a contest all summer while the Freedom Springs logo is shown on the video board. And if you’ve driven along Interstate 65 between Southport Road and Main Street, you may have seen the billboard with the Freedom Springs logo.
That marketing campaign has been a tremendous success, officials said. The park sold more than 120 season passes before the pools were even filled with water, Taggart said. Season pass sales have brought in roughly $8,000.
“This is not just a municipal pool. This is a true aquatics facility,” Taggart said. “This is an amenity our community definitely needed. It shows the progress Greenwood is making.”
Transportation was also a key issue, with so many visitors expected daily.
The park has arranged deals with local transportation and had the city add projects for more accessibility.
Greenwood has more than 20 miles of connected trails and sidewalks. Since Freedom Springs’ approval, the city has extended the trail system another half-mile to stretch from Averitt Road to the pool connecting with the trails already in place, allowing guests to access the park by foot or on bike.
Access Johnson County also added pickup and drop-off spots on U.S. 31 in Franklin and Greenwood, and at the Greenwood Community Center to shuttle guests to and from Freedom Springs on an hourly basis.
And more changes could be discussed in the future, such as added access points for city bus routes.
For now, city officials will see where the first summer takes them before making any changes, such as adding deck chairs or more cabanas inside the center.
Here is a look at the details of Freedom Springs, the Greenwood aquatic center:
Hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Saturday; noon to 6 p.m. Sunday
Admission: Greenwood residents — adult $8, child/senior (55+) $6; nonresidents — adult $10, child/senior (55+) $8; under 2 free
Season pass: Residents $65, nonresidents $85
Cabana rental: Half-day $30, full day $50
Address: 850 W. Stop 18 Road
Phone: 317-884-2078, 317-884-2079
“This is not just a municipal pool. This is a true aquatics facility. This is an amenity our community definitely needed. It shows the progress Greenwood is making.”
Greenwood Parks and Recreation Director Rob Taggart, on Freedom Springs aquatic center