MANATEE -- Last year, Manatee County officials discussed closing and filling in Marble Park Community Pool. What a difference a year makes.
This week, the county-owned pool is open to the public for free swims, along with a "Splash into Summer" party from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday designed to celebrate its grand reopening.
The festive event will feature a community block party and cannonball splash contest, open swim, live music, limbo contest and swim races, officials said.
"It's going to be a blast," said Derek Marshall, director for G.T. Bray Park and Recreation Center. "We expect people to hang out and enjoy the pool and the park around it after the party."
The pool will remain open until 4 p.m. Saturday, he said.
The 25-meter pool gracing John H. Marble Park, 3675 53rd Ave. E., is advertising free swims to emphasize it is open and available for public use.
Parks user surveys via social media and other methods found people didn't know the pool was there, or that it was open to the public, officials have said.
The YMCA at one time operated its South Branch at an adjacent recreation center and also offered pool activities, but it moved elsewhere in 2010.
Bible Baptist Church now
operates the community center under a lease arrangement with the county, but did not want to operate the pool due to liability concerns.
After this weekend, the pool will close Monday, before reopening Tuesday. Normal summer hours: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and noon-7 p.m. Friday through Sunday.
"We're doing more family friendly hours on the weekends," said Marshall.
Swimming costs $2 per person per day.
The underused pool, which last year nearly closed, will cost the county about $45,000 for the summer program, Marshall said.
Kevin Angell, county offsite center director for aquatic programs, said "Splash into Summer" has developed a definite buzz.
"We've been sharing it by word-of-mouth. People are stopping by the pool. The word is definitely getting out into the community," he said.
"People are excited to see it reopening. They're very inquisitive."
The county also intends to hire lifeguards from the surrounding community, he said.
Information: Call Angell at 941-742-5923, or consult the county website at mymanatee.org/home/government/departments/parks-and-recreation/Temporary-Information/marble-summer-splash.html.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.