Long-awaited aquatics center opens in time for summertime heat

Summer began in Brecksville, unofficially, with opening of the Brecksville Community Center’s Jack A. Hruby Natatorium, named for Mayor Jerry Hruby’s late brother and former mayor of Brecksville. The mayor said the dedication served two purposes – a welcome back after the pandemic and a welcome to the new pool.

After more than two decades of discussion and then COVID-19-related construction delays, the indoor activity pool and the outdoor aquatics center opened for business on June 3, just in time for a weekend heat wave.

“People have been waiting for it for so long,” the mayor of 33 years said.

Originally, the mayor said, the thought was to build a pool on the Blossom Hill property. Then he said, they decided the community center was a better location for people to get to. An added benefit is that parents have the option to drop their kids off at the pool while they use the community center amenities.

“We decided that if would fit there, we’d build it there,” the mayor said.

The focus then became to add an indoor component so families could enjoy year-round aquatic fun.

“We wanted something for everyone from the little guys to the adults,” Hruby said.

The add-ons to the indoor pool include a zero-depth entry for toddlers, along with other family-friendly features, and elevated slides that extend up to the ceiling.

The outdoor pool is a state-of-the-art water park, with a multi-level play structure and water slides. For families with younger children, the activity pool features a zero-depth entry and scaled version of the larger play structure, with a family slide that allows an entire family to slide together.

Of course, no water park is complete without a dumping bucket that slowly fills with water and then dumps its fill on the crowd below. The pool has three dedicated lanes for lap swimming. The deep end of the pool features a zipline and rock-climbing wall. Two circular pools allow guests either walk against the current for a bit of exercise or to rest as the current carries them around the channel on a pool noodle.

Concessions are available, and families also are welcome to bring their own food to eat at the picnic tables.

Elyse Hensley, of Brecksville, Olivia Pliske, of Bedford, and Jonathan Barson, of Brecksville, were the first life guards on duty outside at the pool this year. Photo by J. Kananian

The city hoped to have the new aquatics center ready for last summer, but plans changed once the pandemic hit. Materials and workers were difficult to find, and construction came to a standstill, Hruby said.

The total cost of the project was just under $10 million, which the mayor said was “right on target.” In fact, he said the project came in slightly under budget.

Hruby said the city leaders began discussing a new pool back in 2000, but the project was unable to happen at that time.

“A lot of good things have happened to us since then,” he said, citing the Valor Acres development with Sherwin-Williams as the anchor. “That will add up to millions of dollars coming into the cities and the schools.”

He added that home values are up these days, with sellers getting above asking price. New housing developments have cropped up in the past few years and Brecksville has received grants all year long to subsidize projects around the city.

“We’re at a high,” Hruby said. “I still pinch myself.” ∞

Mallory Koepke was chosen to be the first to go down the slide in the new Jack Hruby Natatorium. Photo by J. Kananian