PALMETTO, Fla. — Manatee County's brand new Lincoln Aquatic Center reached maximum capacity this Memorial Day weekend as families flocked to the splash pad and slide zone to cool off from the 90-degree heat.
This was the soft opening for the swim and splash zone, which was built as part of an effort to create more places to swim in Palmetto. When the soft opening timeslots opened up in mid-May, it took fewer than eight hours for pool-goers to sign up for all of them.
“We are happy to see so many people sign up for the test-splash Memorial Day weekend,” Parks and Natural Resources Director Charlie Hunsicker wrote in a statement. “Moving forward, the ongoing operations will be our focus.”
Several families trooped to the new aquatic center which features three combined pools, splash facilities, and a giant water slide.
"I think it's a really great investment because now we have somewhere to take the kids to," said Dre Webb, a Manatee County dad.
"You don't have to travel far. It's in the community and it's affordable," added Julius Perry, another local father.
Beginning Tuesday, the facility will host open swim sessions each day from noon to 4 p.m., with the exception of a staffing-related closure on June 3.
Besides that Friday, the Lincoln Aquatic Center is scheduled to be open daily through the end of June. Admission is $2 per person, per session. Children under 15 must be with a parent or guardian.
"This is huge everything from the developmental and safety of children learning how to swim, drowning prevention to then letting them grow and learn stroke development and move on to swim teams if they wish," said Matt Porter, manager for the recreation division at Manatee County.
Manatee County is hiring lifeguards to make sure things run smoothly. If you're looking for a local job, pay starts at $18.40 an hour. Click here to find open jobs.
"Free lifeguard training to become certified is offered to applicants who are able to commit to working three or more months with Manatee County Aquatics," the county wrote in a press release.
Back at the groundbreaking in November 2020, Manatee County Commissioner Reggie Bellamy (Dist. 2) gave a heartfelt speech about the team of area leaders who came together to make the aquatic center a reality. He highlighted how the pool would provide opportunities to traditionally-underserved communities to access a community pool nearby.
"We're going to take and extend an opportunity for youth north of the river to learn how to not only swim but to recreate," Bellamy told attendees.
He urged all in attendance at the groundbreaking to find ways to work together to continue to improve Manatee County in the years to come.
"This is my heart here when you're talking about Palmetto. This is my heart when you're talking about making a difference in our community. More importantly, if you know anything about me, this is my heart when you're talking about giving youth – giving kids – an opportunity to learn how to swim," Bellamy said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says while drowning death rates have gone down nationwide, racial and ethnic disparities have persisted. As Bellamy spoke about in 2020, the pool in Palmetto may become a place where more local children can learn to swim.
"Implementing and evaluating community-based interventions, including those promoting basic swimming and water safety skills among disproportionately affected racial/ethnic groups, could help reduce these disparities," the CDC wrote in a 2021 report.
The Lincoln Aquatic Center is located at 715 17th St E in Palmetto. Learn more about the new facility by clicking here or calling 941-748-4501.