Councilman Jerry Ballas hooted and hollered all the way down the inaugural run of a Splash Montana waterslide, popping out of the blue pool at the bottom with a whoop before running right back up the three-story stairs to give the other slides a go.
Ballas delivered his speech, dripping wet to a largely inattentive audience, just before his June 20 test run of Missoula’s new waterpark before the gates swung open June 21, the first day of summer.
More than 200 people—including City Council members, project architects and constructors, and neighborhood council leadership, most of whom brought families—showed up with towels slung over their shoulders for a sneak peek at the park. A trio of three-story waterslides, crazy and lazy rivers floatable on tubes, a large pool with spraying 10-foot flowers and dumping buckets, and a sand pit for volleyball and castle-building managed to slap silly smiles on every face in the joint. The handful of speeches by project leaders was the only bit of serious business the whole evening, including an announcement by Swim Missoula’s Mark Thane that the 50-meter lap pool would likely open next June, thanks in part to a $75,000 donation from the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation and a $10,000 contribution from Smurfit-Stone Container.
Donna Gaukler, director of Missoula Parks and Rec, says Splash Montana, which will be open every day from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. through Labor Day and costs $5.25 for adults and $3 for kids, can fit up to 895 people, ending the long waits that Missoula’s pool fans have coped with for years at the 200-person Playfair Park pool that the new center replaces.
A trembling Bridger, 7, can tell you all about long waits. Standing poolside, he exploded with “I was ready a year ago!” before jumping in.
Once the kids hit the pool, dad Jed Liston explained: “They were so excited they could hardly get their swim trunks on.”