The City of Marion offers a traditional outdoor competition pool at the Marion Pool in Willowood Park. The pool opened in 1987, and offers 8, 50-meter lanes and 6, 25-yard cross directional lanes, in addition to 2, 1-meter diving boards, a separate wading/baby pool and training pool, and a splash pad. Over the last 10 years, attendance has decreased, and the aging facility is experiencing ongoing and increasing maintenance challenges. It is expected that significant repair and improvement will need to be made to keep it in operation.
Through the 2016 Master Park Plan and Marion’s ImagiNEXT project, the need was identified for an updated outdoor aquatic center to fit the needs of the growing population and to attract visitors. The existing pool’s condition, along with the identified need for an updated outdoor aquatic center, prompted the City to commission an Outdoor Aquatic Center Feasibility Study to develop a plan that will provide direction on aquatic options that will meet the needs of the community. In 2020, the City selected Waters Edge Aquatic Design and Confluence to conduct the Feasibility Study.
With the goal of developing a robust outdoor aquatic center that will serve a diverse range of users while maximizing opportunities for use, Waters Edge conducted a thorough study on the market and demographics, programming, and site analysis. Public outreach was important to the study and in identifying community needs and interests. Public outreach included online surveys, an online project web page, both virtual and in-person meetings, focus group meetings, and pool tours for staff and committee members. Working with the Steering Committee, several concepts were created that combined feedback from the community, committee, city, and best practices. To better understand the operating conditions of the final concept, an analysis was conducted on management, operating, and programmatic opportunities, and operational recommendations were provided via a detailed business plan for the concept.
The final concept was created with families, kids, swimmers, and spectators in mind. It includes six distinct areas, each with a unique focus and appeal. It was a goal of the project to create unique and “wow” amenities to attract visitors time and time again, along with ample seating, shade, and places to hang out. The new aquatic center was developed to serve as a regional destination, serving both residents and non-residents, bringing business into the city and maximizing revenue potential. The six areas include: