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The first hot, sunny day of the swimming season came with a crowd of swimmers standing in line Tuesday to enter the Mitchell Outdoor Aquatic Center. By late afternoon, more than 500 people had entered the facility. (Jordan Steffen/Republic)

Sun, heat inject life into Mitchell pool

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The Daily Republic
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Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

The first hot, sunny day of the swimming season Tuesday brought a horde of swimmers to the Mitchell Outdoor Aquatic Center.

Because of wet and unseasonably cool weather recently, the number of patrons at the aquatic center had decreased, with the pool seeing less than half of the swimmers it had in the same timeframe last year.

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That began to change Tuesday as more than 500 people flocked to the pool.

"Today was the biggest day of the summer so far," said Jamie Henkel, a recreation coordinator for the city, on Tuesday.

The pool had hosted 5,652 patrons by this time last year. By Monday, it had seen only 2,419. Tuesday's crowd brought the season's total to around 3,000.

"I think it's just the weather," Henkel said. "We've been really busy today."

Tuesday's high in Mitchell was 90 degrees with fair skies, according to a late-afternoon report from the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls.

Cold temperatures and rain this spring had kept most patrons indoors and the pool closed. In the first 17 days the pool was scheduled to be open this season, the aquatic center was only open for five full days. It was closed for the entire day on five days, and the remaining days the pool either opened late or closed early. Late openings were due to cold temperatures, and early closures were due to a lack of swimmers.

Henkel said there hadn't been many swimmers after 5 p.m. most days, other than those there for swimming lessons, before Tuesday's swimming surge.

The pool opened May 25. The aquatic center is usually open from 1 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. daily.

If there are fewer than 30 swimmers in the pool, lifeguards are assigned to other tasks, such as cleaning and maintenance, or are sent home. The pool will close if there are fewer than 15 swimmers.

If temperatures sink below 64 degrees, the pool closes to regular customers, but swim classes will still take place.

The aquatic center's numbers this summer depend largely on the weather, but Henkel is hopeful swimmers will begin arriving in greater numbers in the coming weeks.

So far this season, 509 memberships have been sold. Last year, 965 memberships were sold over the course of the entire season.

"We could be on track for a normal summer," Henkel said. "It's going to be slow to pick up."

The aquatic center was built for $3.65 million and opened in May 2006. The city has $1.773 million of remaining debt on the facility.

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