A dozen lifeguards took turns Tuesday afternoon testing two new slides next to the beach-style entry pool at the new Gail and Carolyn Shaw Aquatic Center in Chehalis.
The lifeguards had mixed reviews for each spiral slide. The open red slide offered a longer ride, while the enclosed blue slide was pitch black the whole way down.
Chris Walker, 21, a lifeguard for the past seven years, eagerly slid down both slides. He said the slides and pool toys are a welcome addition to the old Chehalis pool.
“Not bad,” Walker said after splashing in the water off the red slide. “I’m going to work for more speed on the way down.”
The $2.7 million aquatic center is tentatively set to open Friday. No grand opening ceremony has yet to be scheduled.
Connie Bode, project leader for the Chehalis Foundation, said the test runs on Tuesday offered the lifeguards a fun afternoon, but also a chance to train for patrolling the slides once the aquatic center opens.
“It was fun and they got to play, but they also learned what they have to do every morning to make sure the slides are safe,” Bode said. “They have to go into the slides to make sure they are safe.”
The lifeguards will be positioned at the top and bottom of each slide to direct people in and out. During the test runs Tuesday, the lifeguards learned the red slide takes about 6 seconds and the blue side takes 5 seconds.
Bode said each lifeguard has gone through quite a bit of safety training regarding the new equipment at the aquatic center. The pool is 3 and a half feet deep near the slides and 11 feet deep near the newly installed diving board.
“They are also learning where they have to stand so they have the best view of the pool,” Bode said.
Crews with Schwiesow Construction, the contractor from Centralia, are putting the finishing touches on the pool building and landscaping around the aquatic center.
Next week, Bode said, an honor board with names of all the donors will be placed inside the pool building.
“They are still working through some start up challenges, but we are still really focused on being able to open August 15,” Bode said. “That is still a goal not a given.”
Pool staff is planning to have the aquatic center open from noon to 3:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. seven days per week.
Once the pool opens, Bode said, some life jackets will be available for young children. Parents will be able to bring their own life jackets for their children, but they will need to be checked by a lifeguard.
Bode said the city will keep the pool open past the usual closing date of Labor Day.
The Chehalis Foundation partnered with the city to create the aquatic center, which is completely funded through grants and donations. No taxpayer money is being used to build the new aquatic center.
On Tuesday, Chehalis Parks Department Maintenance Technician Adrian Franks took the inaugural ride down the slides, followed by all the lifeguards.
Colin Albert, a W.F. West student entering his second years as a lifeguard, compared the slides to Wild Waves Theme Park in Federal Way.
“I can’t believe they are paying us to do this,” Albert said.