Ten-year-old Ashley Kroese imagined she was the water princess of Gretna Municipal Pool.
Her subjects were the children throwing splash balls overhead, and her jesters were the swimmers attempting handstands underwater.
Ashley was among 200 people who scurried to the pool Wednesday — the last day for Gretna Public Schools classes — to perform backflips and get a head start on their tan.
“You don't have to stay in the heat all day,” she said. “You can just swim.”
Gretna opened its pool Monday, and most Omaha-area pools will open this weekend or follow suit in the coming days. The City of Omaha's pools will open in early June, though all but one of the city's spraygrounds will open Monday.
With hot weather forecast for this Memorial Day weekend, Ashley won't be alone in looking for someplace wet to stay cool.
Ashley's mother, Julie Kroese, 38, said the Gretna pool is convenient for her family, who lives a mile away. “It has a good small-town feel,” she said.
One pool, the Papillion's Papio Bay Aquatic Park, will unveil a $250,000 renovation when it opens today.
Renovations to the 18-year-old facility include new restrooms, a chemical storage room, diving board, a refurbished pool and free Wi-Fi, said recreation director Lori Hansen.
Looking for a place in town to cool off? Click on the tabs below for a list of area public pools and the dates they open.
All pools open Friday through mid-August. Cascio had been scheduled to open later.
Dowding Pool, 1400 Washington St.
Jerry Gilbert Pool, 29th Avenue and Jackson Street
Sorensen Pool, 10th and Sidney Streets
Sun Valley Pool (in Aspen Park), 53rd and Arrow Rock Road
Cascio Pool, 1500 Lawrence Lane
Open Saturday through at least mid-August
Katelman Water Park, 1230 16th Ave.
Pirate Cove Water Park, 915 N. 21st St.
Gretna Municipal Pool, 300 Angus St.: Opened Monday; open through Aug. 12
La Vista Municipal Pool, 7529 S. 85th St.: Open Saturday through Labor Day
(Traditional pool unless otherwise noted)
Camelot Pool, 9270 Cady Ave.: Open June 9 through Aug. 5
Cryer Pool, 11783 Cryer Ave.: June 9 through Aug. 5
Deer Ridge Leisure Pool, 585 S. 126th St.: June 2 through Aug. 12
Elkhorn Pool, 3200 N. 207th Plaza: June 2 through Aug. 12
Elmwood Leisure Pool, 606 S. Happy Hollow Blvd.: June 2 through Aug. 12
Gallagher Leisure Pool, 2936 N. 52nd St.: June 2 through Aug. 12
Hanscom Leisure Pool, 3110 Ed Creighton Blvd.: June 9 through Aug. 5
Hitchcock Traditional Pool, 5025 S. 45th St.: June 2 through Aug. 12
Karen Pool, 6288 H St.: June 9 through Aug. 5
Lee Valley Pool, 10605 Charles St.: June 9 through Aug. 5
Miller Water Park, 6275 N. 30th St.: June 2 through Aug. 12
Oak Heights Leisure Pool, 10205 U St.: June 2 through Aug. 12
Roanoke Pool, 4747 N. 113th St.: June 2 through Aug. 12
Spring Lake Pool, 4020 Hoctor Blvd.: June 9 through Aug. 5
Zorinsky Aquatic Center, 3808 S. 156th St.: June 2 through Aug 12
Spraygrounds, also called splash pads
All, except Fontenelle Park, open Monday through Labor Day
Fontenelle Park, 4405 Fontenelle Blvd. (closed for repairs)
Kountze, 1920 Pinkney St.
Orchard Park, North 66th Street and Hartman Avenue
Upland, 3104 Jefferson St.
Westwood Heights, 12334 Seldin Drive
Papio Bay Aquatic Park, 815 E. Halleck St.: open Saturday through Labor Day
Blair Swimming Pool, 1601 Butler St.: open Tuesday through Aug. 10
Fremont Splash Station, a full aquatic park at 3809 E. Fremont Drive: open Monday through Aug. 12
Ronin Swimming Pool, 1703 N. Somers Ave.: Monday through Aug. 12
Splash pads: Open Monday through Labor Day
Memorial Park, at North Lincoln and East Military Avenues
Miller Park on South M Street at West Jackson Street
Ronin Park, 1703 N. Somers Ave.
Missouri Valley, Iowa
Missouri Valley Swimming Pool, 700 W. Huron St.: open Sunday through Aug. 19
Twin Rivers Water Park, 414 S. 18th St.: open Saturday through mid-August
Platte River State Park, Louisville, Neb.
Swimming pool: Open Saturday through mid-August for full hours; limited hours through Labor Day
Mahoney State Park, Ashland, Neb.
Family Aquatic Center: Open today through mid-August; limited hours through Labor Day
— Kirby Kaufman
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Other pools are installing lifts to comply with Americans With Disabilities Act regulations that take effect next year.
Gretna's pool purchased a mobile lift for those in wheelchairs, along with giving the pool a fresh coat of paint. Pool employees will be trained to operate the lift next week, said pool manager Kyle O'Neill.
The ADA rules require pools and spas to have the lifts in place by Jan. 31, 2013, though many area cities have already made the changes.
Papillion's Papio Bay added water lifts as part of its renovation. Others, including the Ronin Swimming Pool in Fremont, Blair's Municipal Swimming Pool and the Missouri Valley, Iowa, Swimming Pool, also have installed the lifts.
Bellevue has ordered the parts for water lifts at its five pools and hopes to install them this summer. The lifts will cost the city an estimated $13,000, said Jim Shada, director of the Bellevue Recreation Department.
In the meantime, Shada said, lifeguards will physically assist disabled people into the pools.
“It'll make it accessible for the people that are handicapped to more conveniently use our swimming pools,” Shada said. “This is going to be a lot easier.”
Omaha plans to meet with an ADA consultant in June to discuss plans to add the lifts at city pools, said Kim Harman, Omaha's recreation manager.
Splash parks also have been growing in popularity with metro area cities. Several communities, including Bellevue and Missouri Valley, are making plans to add them in the future.
Bellevue hopes to put the splash parks in several neighborhoods as a supplement to existing pools. “They are very popular,” Shada said.
Also known as splash pads or spray grounds, the water features often have fountains, sprinklers and buckets that dump and spray water.
For cities, the splash parks mean lower operating costs because they demand less water. The parks operate on a timer and only turn on when someone is playing in them. The splash parks require little maintenance and don't need lifeguards.
The City of Omaha has five splash parks. The first was built in 1999, and the most recent in 2009. Bayliss Park in Council Bluffs offers water spouts.
“They're free and are very popular,” said Brook Bench, Omaha's interim parks director.
Bench said splash parks have become a popular stop for day care facilities looking for a field trip.
“If you go to any of them at any time of the summer, there's people there,” he said.
Missouri Valley also has plans for a splash park with sprinklers and animal fixtures. Construction has begun, but it won't be finished until next summer, said Betty Totten, a pool assistant manager.
“It's just a darn good idea,” Totten said. “We have a lot of little kids.”
Totten said children at splash parks require less supervision than at pools.
“If Mom takes them into the pool, Mom's gotta be right there,” she said. “With splash parks, they can play here on their own with their friends, and Mom won't have to be here standing by them.”
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