All About the Big Pool
Located within the massive Finnup Park complex on the south side of Garden City, you’ll find a peculiar landmark: The Big Pool. Anyone who has seen it can’t help but notice the sheer scale of this concrete aquatic wonderland.
If you’ve ever wondered how such a giant pool ended up in Garden City, you’re in the right place. In this blog, we’ll look into the details of the Big Pool, its history, and the status of the pool today. Let’s dive in!
Tale of the Tape
The surface area of the Big Pool measures a whopping 72,600 square feet – 1¼ times bigger than a football field – and holds more than 2.6 million gallons of water. Based on average consumption, this is almost 100 times more water than a person drinks in a lifetime!
In other words, it’s big. In fact, the Big Pool is the largest hand-dug cement swimming pool in the world – one of the many features that make Garden City remarkable.
The Big Pool Is Born
The idea for a giant swimming pool was originally conceived by Garden City Mayor H. O. Trinkle all the way back in 1921. Naturally, everyone thought he was nuts and that a pool of the size he proposed would cost a fortune.
Undeterred, Mayor Trinkle came up with an idea. Rather than funding the pool out of the city coffers, he would turn the pool construction into a community project. Everyone in the city would contribute whatever they could – material, money, or good ol’ manual labor.
And it worked! Mayor Trinkle’s dream was realized, and in July 1922, the pool opened to the public. Hundreds of Garden City residents inaugurated the opening by jumping in the pool all at the same time. And just like that, the Big Pool was born.
Through the Decades
While the pool began life as a humble – albeit gigantic – cement pond, it evolved through the decades for a variety of different purposes.
During the economic downturn of the great depression, the pool was the recipient of a WPA project funded by the New Deal, which added the bathhouse and children’s pool.
In the winter, the pool was allowed to freeze so it could be used for ice skating. In the 70s and 80s, some entrepreneurial Garden City residents water-skied across the pool to promote the city and the various facilities and attractions in the surrounding park.
In 1996, neighboring Lee Richardson Zoo allowed two female elephants, Moki and Chana, to swim in the pool after the (human) swimming season ended. From outside the fence, thousands of people watched the unusual sight of two elephants playing in a swimming pool.
As the millennium approached at the end of the 90s, it was clear the grand old pool had seen better days. Nearly 80 years of continuous operation had taken a toll. Plus, letting the pool freeze in the early days had riddled the concrete foundation with cracks. An overhaul was the only option.
Despite a steep $8 million price tag, Garden City pulled together and got it done. After several phases of renovation between 2003 and 2006, the pool reopened newer and better than ever before, transformed into a full-blown water park!
The Pool Today
These days, the Garden Rapids waterslide complex is the first thing you see as you approach the pool, a modern reminder of the long history of this Garden City treasure.
If you need a relaxing swim, a lap workout, or some fun on the slides, Garden Rapids at the Big Pool has it all. If you find yourself in Garden City, it’s definitely worth checking out.
The pool is open from May 28 to September 5, and daily admission is $3. Check out this page for more information.