Huether Family Aquatics Center Opens With A Big Splash
31 May 2021
Community Growth, Recreation, City of Yankton
Despite the chilly and cloudy weather, Saturday’s soft opening for the Huether Family Aquatics Center in Yankton went just swimmingly.
The ribbon cutting at Fantle Memorial Park required more than one try with the ceremonial scissors. Parks and Recreation director Todd Larson stepped forward, using the right touch as the ribbon was sliced in two.
Otherwise, neither overcast weather nor sticky scissors would stop this moment. The $11 million aquatics center made a big splash with those eagerly awaiting the new facility.
Yankton City Manager Amy Leon welcomed the guests at the soft opening.
“This summer, and every summer, we get to come here with our family and friends, our classmates and our community members,” she said. “We get to welcome people so they can see what a great place Yankton is to live, and that is a great reason to celebrate.”
Discussion on replacing the Memorial Park pool started in the 1990s, with the project becoming reality three decades later. Once the City Commission approved the aquatics center, another three years passed with a special opt-out election, demolition of the 70-year-old pool and construction of its replacement on the same site.
And now, Leon noted, the wait is over.
“Some of us have waited three years for this, and some of you have waited 30 years for this day. But we don’t have to wait any longer,” she told Saturday’s crowd. “Today, we get to swim and splash and jump and dive at the brand-new Huether Family Aquatics Center, and that’s pretty special. And it’s pretty special welcoming you to it.”
Larson, the director of parks and recreation, offered a simple challenge for those who were unsure about the aquatics center.
“Why not Yankton?” he asked those at the ribbon cutting.
Larson also challenged those who questioned the need for such a facility in the community of 15,000 residents.
“People said this was too big or too fancy for Yankton,” he said.
It’s an idea that has been raised several times in the past two decades, Larson said. Each time, the community has risen to the challenge with spectacular results and a string of successes, he said.
When he arrived in Yankton about 15 years ago, Larson was given a tour of the Summit Activities Center (SAC) by then-Yankton High School Activities Director Bob Winter.
“Bob would always tell how the Summit Center came to be — and how it almost didn’t come to be,” Larson said. “Now, it has surpassed whatever the leaders had ever imagined, not only for school use but also community use. The Summit Activities Center wasn’t too big or too fancy.”
The SAC has been followed by numerous successes, including the arrival of the National Field Archery Association (NFAA) headquarters and the construction of the world-class NFAA Easton Yankton Archery Center.
The arrival of world archery events in Yankton was reported by then-Press & Dakotan City Editor Nathan Johnson, who has since served as Yankton mayor and current city commissioner.
“And at that time, I first asked the question: ‘Why not Yankton?’” Larson said. “Making big ideas a reality has worked in Yankton. Again, it’s not too big or fancy.”
And now, the same can be said for the Huether Family Aquatics Center, Larson said.
“I think, ‘Mission accomplished,’ if you ask the city of Yankton,” he said. “I’ll keep asking, ‘Why not Yankton?’ We don’t need to apologize for wanting the best or being the best.”
Mayor Stephanie Moser spoke of similar efforts — namely public support and the role of young people — in making possible both the former pool and the current aquatics center.
“In June 1940, after local (Missouri) river drowning and being unimpressed with the facilities at the time, the local youth collected petition signatures asking for a swimming pool,” she said.
“In 1945, when the Fantles gave the land where we stand today, they included the requirement that the park needed to include a war memorial and a modern-day pool, which we now have.”
By a more than 3-1 margin, Yankton residents approved construction of the Fantle Memorial Park pool.
Seven decades later, the effort to replace the new pool and construct an aquatics center gained momentum from a former resident. Then-Sioux Falls Mayor Mike Huether, a Yankton native, spoke to the One Million Cups organization about long-overdue quality of life projects in Yankton.
In 2017, a group of residents formed Dive In Yankton. The organization conducted a grassroots effort that included citizens from elementary students to senior citizens in planning, designing and fundraising for a modern aquatics facility.
Dive In Yankton raised $2 million in private funds, including $1 million from Mike and Cindy Huether and their daughter, Kylie.
Dive In Yankton presented their plan and fundraising efforts to the City Commission. By a 9-0 vote, the commissioners approved a 20-year, $12 million bond project at an October 2018 meeting.
The action was referred to the ballot, and city voters approved the tax levy increase by a 2-1 margin with a 66-34% margin.
With financing in place, the project was awarded in October 2019. Demolition began in December 2019, construction began in spring 2020 and constructed was completed and the facility opened this spring.
The Huether family was unable to attend Saturday’s ceremony, but they were represented by Mike’s mother, Diane Reese, and Cindy’s mother, Marilyn Loecker.
In her closing remarks, Moser recognized a number of parties who contributed to the aquatics center, including the local youth who supported the effort with their penny drive.
“Like 1940, the youth literally stepped up and made this happen,” the mayor said.
The aquatics center continues the community’s momentum in recent years, the mayor noted.
“It truly is a great day to be a Yankton resident,” she said.
The following are the “first” people on the different features at the aquatics center, as reported by the City of Yankton:
• Lazy River — Sawyer Tanderup
• Body Slide — Grayson Lange
• Tube Slide — Tori Gale
• High Dive — Dr. Dave Withrow
• High Dive — Officer Preston Crissey
• Low Dive — Liam Gross
• Rock Climbing Wall — Nakita Waggoner
• Wiggle Bridge — Maverick Tanderup
• Lap Swim — Duke Ellingson
• Spray Zone — Teagan Pravecek, Kinsley Pravecek, Knox Orr, Alex Orr, Kaeden Orr, Harper Orr, Kinsie Oliver, Harley Tanderup, Violet Woodmancy, Alexander Woodmancy, Vinny Cima
• Family Slide — Todd, Angela, Klaire and Emery Larson
For more information, visit the City of Yankton’s Facebook page or email TheHuetherFamilyAquaticsCenter@cityofyanton.org