The Pine Bluff Aquatics Center is set for its grand opening at 11 a.m. Saturday. The center is located at 400 E. 11th near the Pine Bluff Civic Center. Aquatics Center Director T.R. Santos said that the event will include an Olympic swimmer, among other activities.

“Our Olympic swimmer is Maritza McClendon from Atlanta, Georgia, and she is the first African-American to make the Olympic team,” Santos said. “She is a four-time world champion, a Silver medalist, and a four NCAA champion. She will very big inspiration to the kids here.”

The day will also host a mini-swim meet. Additionally, the center will host its first sanctioned swim meet later in the month.

“We have got kids from the Pine Bluff Sharks swim team who will race against her (McClendon), then we will have a (local) celebrity race,” Santos said. “We will then have our first swim meet on July 13. We will have 13 teams and 200 kids. It will be a great excitement for us to be able to host the meet so the community can see what competitive swimming looks like.”

The last few weeks have been spent making final preparations for the grand opening, with the final touches being placed this week.

“We have been tying up loose ends, just tying up things and getting ready to go,” Santos said. “We’ve gotten a lot done, and we do have some small things left to do, but we are looking really good. Our staff is getting their final training with the software. We are looking good. I’ve got a great staff, and we are ready to open.”

The center will offer swimming lessons in the coming weeks as well.

“We want every single kid to learn how to swim,” Santos said. “That was my goal coming in here. This is one of the only communities in the nation where swimming hasn’t been available for the vast amount of the population. I love that challenge. We have eight great teachers who can teach, and we want to get all of the kids in the water so we can teach them how to swim. We will begin giving lessons on the 8th of July.”

“Saturday is going to be a great celebration for the whole city,” Santos added. “Especially with all of the years it has taken for everyone to get involved here, and all of the hard work. It is going to be a big celebration of all of that hard work and accomplishing something pretty remarkable.”

The center will feature AquaBikes and other attractions to help with aqua therapy. The center will also work with the Jefferson Regional Medical Center Wellness Center to help with the therapy.

“We will be the only facility in the state with them (AquaBikes),” Santos said. “We will be one of the only facilities with them in this part of the country as well. This is something you see more of in California, so you won’t see them in Missouri, Tennessee, Louisiana or anywhere else in the area.

“The goal is to build relationships and partnerships with people who are already in the community. We want to have an impact on people’s wellness and help, so we are just trying to connect with them.”

Santos said that the Pine Bluff Aquatics Center will be one of the nicest centers in the entire state.

“I have been a swim coach and traveled for more years than I would like to admit, and I have traveled to all of the aquatic centers in the state and for a short course – which is what this is – it is the finest you will find anywhere,” Santos said. “You can find nicer 15-meter facilities, but you will be hard pressed to find a smaller facility that is this nice, especially in a community this size.”

One-day rates for the center will cost $5 per person. A one-month membership will cost $30 per person, or $50 for a family, while a three-month membership will cost $85 per person, or $135 for a family. A six-month membership will cost $160 per person, or $270 for a family, and a one-year membership will cost $300 per individual, or $480 for a family.

Party rooms, swim meets, swim teams, Water in Motion, Zumba and spin classes, and swimming lessons are available at an additional cost. Details: visit www.CityofPineBluff.com/Aquatics.