By LUCAS STROUGH

Kilgore is kicking off summer with a splash as the city pool finally opens to the public.

On Saturday, June 1, the city held Splash Day, the official opening of the pool for the summer months.

Josie Atchley, administrative assistant for Kilgore’s Department of Special Services, was at the pool opening to greet visitors, keep an eye on swimmers and show off the pool’s new features.

“It’s been widened, it’s an all-new deck,” Atchley said, pointing to the area surrounding the pool’s edge.

“We’ve got a beautiful new lighting system that’s in the pool and it’s got multiple colors and strobes. The kids are going to love it for private parties. It’s going to be great.”

Atchley said the surface around the pool is completely reworked, sandblasted and resurfaced.

New steps have been installed and the large crowd of parents and kids at the pool Saturday seemed proof positive the reopened pool is a big hit with the public.

“Looks like a lot of happy folks,” Atchley said, smiling.

The rehabilitation project began last spring when the city decided to embark on a series of repairs and upgrades at the public site, which was first built in Kilgore in the 1930s at the side of Hwy. 259 next to Kilgore Public Library.

Kilgore City Council set aside more than $200,000 for the repair project in fall 2018. Building a new pool could have cost more than $1 million.

Although the city hoped to have the pool renovations completed in time for the public to enjoy during the summer of 2018, wet weather delayed the project and many people instead used the pool at Kilgore College’s Parks Fitness Center for swimming lessons and to beat the summer heat.

Weather again delayed the pool’s opening this year but it’s finally open for business.

Atchley said the pool is better than ever, with a new seating area behind the pool.

“We never had concrete on this back side for people to be able to come and enjoy. All of this is all totally brand new. There’s a little bit of shade during the day.”

The seating area has picnic tables for pool patrons to enjoy the shade and Atchley said more tables are on the way.

As an added bonus, the pool now has more options for splashing into the water in addition to a diving board.

“We’ve got the two new slides that we haven’t had in multiple years,” Atchley said.

In addition to the restored amenities, the pool now has new wheelchair-accessible ramps for improved ADA compliance. The pool’s lifeguard stands, which had been originally installed in the 1930s, have been replaced with new, state-of-the-art stands.

On Saturday, Atchley said about 100 guests had lined up to enjoy the pool only a few minutes after the facility opened. She said the public had expressed plenty of excitement about finally being able to swim at the pool again.

“I’ve gotten multiple texts today congratulating us on the opening and a lot of ‘thank you’s.’ All I can tell you is that our city manager and all our department heads, they went above and beyond to get this back to where it needed to be.”

At long last, the project has finally paid off.

“It’s been a two-year process. We worked until the last minute. I’m really proud of everything we got done.”

The pool is open Monday through Saturday from 1 to 6 p.m. and on Sunday from 1 to 6 p.m.

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