A swimming community

During the summertime, a pool is usually the center of entertainment inside a community, and Wapakoneta is no different — many locals may remember childhood afternoons spent splashing away.
YMCA Senior Program Director Sarah Finkelmeier said she used to be a lifeguard at the previous Wapakoneta pool.

"I was out there probably 5-6 years and I coached the Wapak Waves for a while back in the '90s," Finkelmeier said. "I grew up with the pool just being a rectangular hole in the ground. It was absolutely wonderful."

Even back then, Finkelmeier said the pool drew the community together.

"When we found out that we were getting a water park I couldn't even believe it," Finkelmeier said. "It was so amazing that our community was going to have something like that."

Around the time WaterPark Manager Jack Hayzlett grew up, he said the previous Wapakoneta pool would attract nearly 1,000 people a day.

"I was one of them that would come in around 1 o'clock and swim all afternoon, go home and eat dinner and then come back," Hayzlett said.

After a fatal accident involving a girl on a diving board at the pool, the boards were removed. Hayzlett said the pool continued to lose attendance.

"A lot of us who grew up around the pool having 500, 600, 700 people — a destination spot — and then driving by there, it was just totally depressing," Hayzlett said.

Hayzlett said there was a big interest in the community to build on and improve the facility, and after funding was made available, support for the WaterPark grew.

"We got a design together and built it," Hayzlett said. "We got lucky that we had three or four council people that were strongly supportive of building a new water park."

In 2008, Wapakoneta's new WaterPark opened and locals and out-of-towners alike were able to enjoy the facilities, which included new diving boards, two pools, a play area, zero-entry and the water slide, which was later updated with a second, twin water slide.

Hayzlett said the park is an attraction that bring in people of all ages, and the water slide line is often visited by adults as well as children.

"That's a neat thing because most people think that the water park is for kids," Hayzlett said. "On any given day when we have more than 1,000 people, more than half of them are adults."

He said the facilities cater to different ages and needs. One of the biggest attractions at the pool is the zero-entry because children and adults can both walk as far as they are comfortable.

"Kids that are 3 years old can walk in the water by themselves," Hayzlett said. "Here, they can just go wherever they're comfortable, and that allows the parents to comfortably sit along the sides and just socialize."

Hayzlett said he meets people from other communities as far as Ottawa and Columbus Grove who come into town specifically for the water park.

"It becomes a destination for a lot of people," Hayzlett said. "They don't expect 1,000 people in the water park in Wapakoneta — our record is 1,800 people in one day. That was a great day."

For the full story, see the Saturday, March 1 edition of the Wapakoneta Daily News.