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Sarah Rose rides a tube down one of the slides at the Point Mallard water park Thursday afternoon. Business is good at the top Decatur attraction.
Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.
Sarah Rose rides a tube down one of the slides at the Point Mallard water park Thursday afternoon. Business is good at the top Decatur attraction.

Some like it hot
Drought not hurting water park;
4-day attendance exceeds 7,700

By Catherine Godbey 353-4612

Tina Terry of Trinity and Brandi Evans of Danville may turn the cool, clear waters of J. Gilmer Blackburn Aquatic Center black on city books for the first time in decades.

What do the two women have in common with Aquatic Center finances that hovered at the breakeven mark for the first time last season? They clicked the turnstile counter despite hazy skies and smoke-filled air from forest fires in southern Georgia and northern Florida.

Point Mallard welcomed more than 7,700 people through the gates of the Aquatic Center during the first four days of the 2007 season. That's more than the total number of visitors during the entire month of May last year.

Julianne Lowman, marketing coordinator for Decatur Parks and Recreation, attributes the visitor increase to a number of factors, least of all dry weather with temperatures in the upper 80s.

"People wake up in the morning and base their decisions on what to do that day by what the sky looks like," Lowman said. "The fires are creating a haze, leading the public to believe that it is cloudy and that rain is possible. As for the smoke smell, since opening more sections of the park a breeze is now flowing through the park and eliminating the smell of smoke."

Terry and Evans said the weather was not a factor for them. They wanted to relax and have fun.

Lowman believes the rise in attendance correlates directly to the increase in promotions and improvements made to the park.

The attendance increase could lead to new rides next year. Officials are considering two types, speed slides and Lazy River.

This year, the attraction's money is on promotions and improvements.

June 8, the park is partnering with Huntsville Regal Theaters to promote the opening of "Surf's Up," an animation film Sony Pictures is releasing. The "Surf's Up" audience will receive half-off coupons to the Aquatic Center. Point Mallard also will award beach balls and beach towels at the theater.

In addition, the park offers half-price days on Mondays and Wednesdays, and half-price nights on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The promotion of half-price days and season passes entices people from beyond the Tennessee Valley to travel to the Aquatic Center.

Natalie Riley of Centerpoint spent a day at the park "because it's half-price day, gas prices are too high and it's closer than Florida."

John McLemore of Decatur takes advantage of season tickets because his grandson Parker Sington of Pensacola "enjoys coming out here so often."

Along with an increase in promotions, the Decatur Parks and Recreation Department made several improvements to the water park during the off season, including new umbrellas, beach loungers and picnic tables.

Workers removed fences between the slides and the lagoon. They expanded the beach with white sand shipped in to beautify the beach area. Lowman said the improvements were designed to make the park more open and to cater to the needs and wants of the consumers.

Next year, park patrons may experience two new attractions, depending on the monetary success of the park this year and the ability of the city to find financing and sponsors for construction.

Park officials are looking at Lazy River and speed slides. They will make a decision of what to add based on public surveys and current trends.

Two trends have emerged in determining what makes attractions popular, Lowman said. People don't want to swim in new rides, and they don't want a height requirement.

If constructed, the Lazy River and speed slides will be the first water attractions added to the Aquatic Center since the Pro-Bowl opened in 2005. Lowman points out that all current and future water attractions are complements to the park's historic attraction.

"The wave pool has always been and will always be our No. 1 attraction."

J. Gilmer Blackburn Aquatic Center

  • Dates: May 26-Aug. 5

  • Open weekends: Aug. 11-Sept. 3

  • Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

  • Half-price times: Mondays & Wednesdays all day; Tuesdays & Thursdays 5 p.m. -9 p.m., excluding holidays

  • Prices: Adults: $15; children ages 5-11: $10; senior citizens ages 62 and over: $8; children 4 and under: Free

  • Season Passes: individual: $65; family of four: $230

    - Catherine Godbey

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