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City Park Pool will open for the season on Saturday


Philip Runia swims at City Park Pool in Iowa City. — Rebecca Bright/Little Village

City Park Pool will open for the 2021 season on Saturday, the Iowa City Parks and Recreation Department confirmed on Wednesday. There had been the possibility of delaying opening day because of a leak in the pool’s surge tank, but repairs were finished on schedule.

The pool will be open on Saturday from 6:15 to 11 a.m. for lap swimming and water walking. From 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. will be “open swim.” Hours for the rest of the month are available online.

Admission is $4, with children 2 or younger being admitted for free. On Saturday, the price during the final hour of open swim starting at 5 p.m. drops to $2. Discounted passes for multiple visits as well as monthly and seasonal passes are also available.

City Park Pool is Iowa City’s only outdoor public pool and the oldest of the city’s three pools. When it opened on June 11, 1949, it became the city’s first public pool. But it wasn’t the first pool open to the public in Iowa City. That distinction belongs to The Big Dipper, a 120-by-80-foot outdoor pool, opened by the Iowa City Natatorium and Amusement Company (INCA Co.) in 1923.

The Big Dipper is often misremembered as the first pool in City Park. Because it was owned and operated by a for-profit company, the pool couldn’t be built on city property. So, INCA Co. built it just beyond the western boundary of the park. Admission was 30 cents for adults ($4.69 in 2021 dollars) and 10 cents ($1.56) for kids under 12.

“Water at the Big Dipper is of the purest,” the Press-Citizen wrote three days before the pool opened. “It comes from the pool’s own well,” i.e., not the river, where Iowa Citians would commonly swim before the Big Dipper. People continued swimming in the river even after the pool opened.

As with the location of the pool, memories of when it finally closed have gotten foggy over the years. Most accounts — written decades later — say the Big Dipper closed after 10 or 15 years. But events at the pool are mentioned in newspapers through the summer of 1940.

City Park Pool will host a variety of events this summer starting with “Pride at the Pool” on Saturday, June 19, in celebration of Pride Month.

The three-hour event, which is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m., will feature “a Splish Splash Storytime reading of Julian Is A Mermaid by one of Iowa City’s own Drag Queens, sidewalk chalk, temporary tattoos, pride flags galore, and much more,” according to IC Parks and Recreation.

The event is free and open to all.


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