Diving into.Sholem Aquatic Center

Amelia Moore The Daily Illini Gavin Sullivan,6, Gus Wheeler, 6, and Beau Atchison, 5, of Sullivan play in the water jets of the interactive ‘Beach’ pool at Sholem Aquatic Center in Champaign for a birthday party.

By Amelia Moore

There is a point of no return for each season: A monotony that begins to occur in the weather, which offers no sanctuary to people who have become numb to the harsh conditions of the prevailing period. We are rapidly approaching this threshold in our little Champaign-Urbana summer. I, personally, have noticed strange mutations beginning to occur on my body. A thin, sticky layer of sweat coats my skin that, horrifyingly enough, makes me feel as if I am becoming some sort of amphibious, bi-pedal hominid hybrid (basically a frog girl). My eyes are constantly squinting, attempting to let in as little sun as possible, but everything looks bleached and alien. Hot days lay way to sleepless nights, but what could save me?

Have no fear friends, there is hope looming in the mirage on the horizon, an oasis in the desert of our Midwestern summer! The new and revitalized Sholem Aquatic Center has reopened in Champaign to offer a clean, safe summer sanctuary. Come on in kids, the water’s fine.

Mention the Sholem Pool to any 20-something’s from this area and a grimacing face with a whispered shudder will most likely characterize their response. While conducting my research on the old facilities, I ran across some pretty entertaining stories of its perils.

For instance, Kevin Williams, a 21-year-old resident of Champaign, recalled being ambushed by bees that had nested under the diving board while attempting to do a cannonball when he was younger.

Remy Tipei, also 21 of Champaign, boasted of the treacherously slick and slimey wooden stairs of the old waterslide, which had claimed more victims than he cared to remember. Overall, the old facilities may have taken a few casualties over the years, but they were much better suited to a more adventurous, mature crowd.

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The new facilities are safer and far more catered to children’s needs. After talking with numerous guests at the pool, I found a very positive response to the new family-friendly vibe. Sholem now offers several new features: an 8,000 square foot activity pool with interactive play and spray features, a 660 foot winding river to float down in inflatable inner tubes, a 170-foot tube slide called ‘The Falls’, a 197-foot tunneling body slide which, apparently is “good for spiraling down,” “The Puddle” for toddlers (where it’s practically impossible for even a cat to drown) and “The Oasis,” an on site concession area. When one pays the admission fee to the pool ($5 for residents, $7.50 for non-residents, 3 years old and under, free), complimentary unlimited inner tubes are available throughout the pool area, which is a really nice bonus.

Sholem Aquatic Center: it’s clean, shiny and oh so pretty.

There are a few drawbacks I’ve noticed though. There is an adult swim from 6:30 a.m. to 8 a.m. and from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. During this time period, eight-lap lanes are opened up for use. During the day though, only two lanes are available for people who want to swim laps.

Also, there are no diving boards in the new facilities which means all you little Greg Louganis’ will have to go somewhere else to get your kicks. The deepest part in the new Aquatic Center is five feet – when there were still diving boards there was a twelve-foot deep area. Thus, the glory of diving sticks is absent here.

Truth be told, a lot of charisma was lost when those bulldozers came in to demolish a legend called Sholem in the fall of 2005, but destruction breeds creation.

Today we, the people of Champaign-Urbana, have been given a pretty new present wrapped in water slide bows and concession stand wrapping paper. The slime on the steps is gone and the bees have moved elsewhere. The Sholem Aquatic Park is our shallow oasis and it is far from a mirage. So next time you feel that sticky layer of sweat building on your face and the temperature climbing past 90 degrees please remember this photo-essay and head over to Champaign for sanctuary.