NAPOLEON — The opening of Napoleon’s new aquatic center on Glenwood Avenue was delayed one week from the original plan, but officials couldn’t have asked for better weather Saturday when the swim season kicked off.
With temperatures on their way toward 90 degrees, city officials held a brief opening ceremony just before noon followed by a series of ribbon-cuttings and the announcement of winners in child essay and picture contests that allowed early pool entry for the kids before 1 p.m.
Originally, the city had hoped to hold the grand opening on Saturday, May 29. But the project — which included construction of a new pool bathhouse and municipal golf clubhouse — was slightly delayed.
However, this didn’t dampened anyone’s enthusiasm Saturday as more than 100 people turned out for the ceremony led by Mayor Jason Maassel.
He thanked various groups involved, including citizens who pushed for the project and then campaigned for a 20-year, 1.9-mill property tax levy that Napoleon voters approved in 2019 to make the project possible. The dedicated levy will fund the pool and clubhouse improvements for two decades.
Among those Masssel thanked was Napoleon City Council’s seven members for giving the go ahead to the project.
Addressing his comments to a number of young children waiting patiently Saturday for the pool to open, he said only two council members had young children, so “they wanted it for you. They wanted it for the City of Napoleon.”
The city’s parks and recreation board also received recognition, with member Peg Funchion offering a few words. She called the project “a phenomenal thing that I think many generations will enjoy.”
Too, the mayor made special mention of Napoleon city voters who approved the tax measure to fund the project.
“We’re going to applaud the voters for their help,” Maassel said. “Look kids, without more people clicking yes than clicking no (on the levy) we’re not here today. There’s absolutely no way we’re here today. There’s just not.”
Maassel offered effusive praise to the city’s parks and recreation director of nearly three decades (Tony Cotter) who had a big hand in the project planning.
“Tony had eight elected officials, his board, the pool commission, his boss, plus his wife helping him pick all the things we have today,” explained Maassel. “And Tony what an amazing, amazing job.”
During a brief address Saturday, Cotter said it’s been a challenge, and recalled his feelings after the related property tax levy was approved by city voters in 2019.
“... I remember sitting in Spangler’s after the tally of the vote from the community, and when we won a feeling of excitement came over me and then I thought, ‘oh man, now I got a lot of work to do,’” he said.
Recognizing those who had pursued the pool idea and promoted the levy, Cotter added: “... I remember going over and talking to some of the folks that were there (on the night the levy passed), and I said, ‘thank you very much for your efforts and going out to the community and really selling this project. No, not everyone voted yes for it, but I think once people see it they’ll say, wow this is really cool.”
He specifically thanked the pool commission which pushed the project.
“It started as the fundraising committee,” he said. “... Kelly Sonnenberg kind of started things, she became part of the committee. Then they couldn’t have recruited a better person in Rachel Bostelman to really drive this thing. Rachel and Lisa Thompson, Heather Gallagher, Molly Knepley, Ryan Funchion, Jeff Mires. We met numerous times.”
Others thanked included the project engineer (Peterman Associates, Findlay) as well as the two main construction contractors (Astro Pool Co., Mansfield and Midwest Contracting, Holland), city engineering and inspection officials (Chad Lulfs and Brad Meyer) and other companies involved (Vernon Nagel Inc., Fencing Contracting, MKS Earthworks and Northwest Electrical).
Additionally, Maassel mentioned several businesses who donated funds for the pool’s new shade structures (Dental Excellence, Farmers and Merchants State Bank, Henry County Hospital, Napoleon Power and Light, Napoleon Rotary Club, Napoleon Vision Center and Vernon Nagel Cos.,) as well as the Limbird Family Foundation for the rock climbing wall. The latter allows swimmers to climb the wall and fall into the deep end of the pool.
Also mentioned were Jerry Tonjes for the tables, chairs and tent set up Saturday in the parking lot for the ceremony; Amanda Griffith, executive assistant to City Manager Joel Mazur, for organizing the event; and Four County Career Center for designing a logo.
Following the opening ceremony, free admission was provided to the general public beginning at 1 p.m. In fact, free admission was provided from 1-5 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
The pool replaced a facility that was built in 1978 and demolished in early 2020. It includes a zero-depth entry area as well as splash pad and spray features, and a deep end for competition swimming.