Private pool makes splash in Syracuse

Wednesday , August 06, 2014 - 11:11 AM

JESUS LOPEZ JR.
Standard-Examiner staff

SYRACUSE -- Children wind through the lazy river on inner tubes, while others shoot out of the colorful water slides at the Rush Funplex,1806 S. 2000 West.

In the nearby pool, dedicated swimmers speed through their lane.

When the weather permits, giant doors, 50 feet long by 20 feet high, sit open 90 degrees, allowing the outside to be inside.

“We can accommodate any sunshine-sunny day and keep the weather out if we have to,” said marketing director Selena Ward. “The doors are really quite remarkable.”

After a year of planning and a year of renovations, Sparetime in Syracuse reopened as the Rush Funplex.

Rush Funplex owner Ed Gertge said the Funplex is a family owned business. His family has the shopping center in which it stands, which also includes restaurants.

Gertge said he hopes residents can keep their entertainment dollars in Syracuse, and also draw in others from out of town.

“Syracuse people have been used to not staying home, they have to go elsewhere,” Gertge said. “Our goal was to create something so nice that you would be hard pressed to leave for entertainment.”

Along with the original offerings including a bowling alley, snack bar and arcade, patrons can now enjoy batting cages, a golf course simulator and a go-kart track.

But more than glow in the dark bowling and mini golf, Syracuse residents really wanted a pool and the Rush Funplex owners delivered.

“We have always asked our customers what can we do to make you want to come here and everyone said we really need an aquatic center in our city limits,” Gertge said.

The pool also keeps the Rush Funplex viable during the summer months. People use the amusement center when it is cold outside, but stop coming when the weather gets warmer.

By diversifying, Gertge said the Funplex equalizes its peak seasons, allowing it to maintain staffing levels all year long.

“Our goal is to become a complete year-round fun place, something for everyone,” Gertge said, “not to be limited by the seasons and the weather.”

Syracuse does not have its own swimming pool. To go for a dip, residents had to go out of town to places like the Cherry Hill water park or another city’s municipal pool.

Even the Syracuse High School swim team could not practice in town. It had to travel to the Clearfield Aquatic Center.

Starting in October, the team will begin practicing at the Rush Funplex, Syracuse High swimming coach Nathan Whitaker said.

“He (Gertge) has been gracious enough to allow us to use the pool for this purpose,” Whitaker said.

With the use of the Funplex, the team will not have to share swim lanes with other schools, giving the competitors more time in the water. He also hopes the facility will allow the team to grow and improve.

Whitaker said if equipment arrives in time, the team can hold swim meets at the Funplex as well.

Syracuse residents are glad to have a pool in their area as well.

Resident Sheri Baber comes about once a week with her family.

“I think this area right here and most of it is great for elementary age,” Baber said. “I like to lap swim over here with friends for exercise.”

The pool was something the whole city was looking forward to, Baber said.

But operating a pool comes with specific challenges, which is something the Ogden Weber Community Action Partnership learned when it took over management of the Marshall White Center on behalf of Ogden City.

OWCAP officials said the pool undergoes constant water testing, random health department visits and certification requirements for all staff and center employees.

One of the biggest challenges is maintaining a full qualified staff of lifeguards, many of whom do not want to be trapped indoors once the summer months hit.

When the pool does not have enough lifeguards, OWCAP director Donald Carpenter said it has to be shut down.

What OWCAP does have is the support of Ogden City’s Fleet and Facilities Division, which has the know-how to fix a problem with the water heater or anything else.

“We are not in the swimming business anyways,” Carpenter said, “but we are in business of helping low-income people.”

The Marshall White Center pool also has prices set by the city council, a luxury Rush Funplex does not have.

“There are some residents who are looking for municipal breaks that we cannot give,” Gertge said.

As a private business, the Rush Funplex has to cover its costs, Gertge said.

Even so, Baber said the pool is still inexpensive and she plans to continue to come with her family.

For those not in the mood to swim, the center also offers four party rooms, a Dairy Queen, laser tag and a Nerf ball shootout game.

“We want to be a destination, the whole idea was to be a destination location,” Gertge said. “We have something for everyone. We have something like 13 different venues to use.”

Contact Jesus Lopez Jr. at 801-625-4239 or jlopez@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @jesuslopezSE and like him on Facebook at facebook.com/JesusLopezSE.

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