GARDEN CITY—The Big Pool in Garden City did not open for a 2020 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but local officials felt the need to celebrate the end of an era and to let people say goodbye, so a farewell celebration was held last Saturday.

Jennifer Cunningham, Garden City assistant city manager, said it was disappointing that a 2020 season couldn’t be held, but the city hopes the farewell celebration helped soothe the sting.

"It's been such a place that held memories for so many different ages and we knew since we couldn't open that we wanted people to be able to get in here one last time, to go through the bath house, to stand in the deep end to get their picture taken, whatever they might want or need to do to celebrate the last days of this facility," she said.

Jennifer Mendenhall attended the celebration with her parents, Larry and Sue Brownlee. She said she was sad to see the pool go, as she grew up swimming and working there.

"It was just a place that everybody could go to," she said. "For a long time it was free, everybody came here. It didn't matter how many people were here, there was always room to do whatever you wanted."

Mendenhall said the memory of the pool that always sticks out in her mind is when elephants from the Lee Richardson Zoo used to swim in the pool at the end of the season.

Lynn Cramer, who moved to Garden City in the 1960s, said the pool holds a lot of memories and hopes the new facility will be done right.

"I hate to see it go away, but as long as they build it right, it's a chance for thousands of other people to make memories," he said.

Shelby Cramer was glad to have had a chance to say goodbye.

"We’re going to miss it," she said. "I think it's awesome that they allowed us to do this one last time, to see it and have all of this."

Pieces of concrete from the pool with heat stamps of the pool’s logo and years of operation —1922 to 2019 — were also available for people to take with them.

The new aquatics center, called Garden Rapids at The Big Pool, is expected to open Memorial Day weekend 2021.

It will include a zero depth entry point with a play structure with sprays, a social transition zone, bench seating and a 305 feet long and 10 feet wide lazy river.

There will be three different levels of slide towers. Some of which will require an inner tube.

There will also be a 50-meter pool that can be used for swimming competitions and practices. It has diving blocks on both ends and 10 lanes for a 50-meter course for competition. It also has a ninja course.

Behind the 50-meter pool will be a spectator seating gallery with a shading mechanism over it.

The new facility will utilize the existing bathhouse and parking lot while a new administration building, concessions area, machine room and locker area will be built.