By Megan Banta
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – If we build it, they will come.
That was the vision behind the creation of a $6 million aquatic center with water park-like features at Prophetstown State Park in Tippecanoe County.
Kids played Monday in the new aquatic center at Prophetstown State Park. Photo by Megan Banta, TheStatehouseFile.com
Gov. Mike Pence joined officials from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, current and former state lawmakers and members of the West Lafayette community at a public dedication ceremony for the center Monday morning.
Pence said the center, which opens officially at 11 a.m. Thursday, will serve as a draw for people to enjoy the rich history and landscapes that are a part of Indiana’s newest state park.
“By opening this aquatic center here, we’re going to create a real magnet for families to come into this area and be enriched,” Pence said. “Not only through a lot of fun in the sun, but also through a better understanding of that rich, Hoosier history and rich, Native American history of this region.”
One of those families is the Pfeiffers, from West Lafayette. Fourteen-year-old Grace Pfeiffer was one of several local children to enjoy the aquatic center after the dedication ceremony.
She enjoyed the lazy river and both of the 30-foot water slides, going down one by herself and the other in a tandem tube with her friend Madison Seef, a 12-year-old from Lafayette.
“We definitely look forward to coming back,” Grace said.
Gov. Mike Pence holds a giant pair of scissors after cutting a ribbon at the opening of a water park at Prophetstown State Park. Photo by Megan Banta, TheStatehouseFile.com
In addition to the water slides and the lazy river, the facility also features an adventure channel, a zero-entry pool with play features for younger children and an aquatic activity area with basketball. The center can accommodate up to 700 people at one time.
Officials emphasized that the pool complex is just one of many recreational opportunities at the state park, which also offers 110 campsites, 55 sites with full hookup for recreational vehicles, 4 miles of hiking trails and 3 miles of bike trails.
Dan Bortner, director of state parks and reservoirs for the DNR, said all of these activities create incentives for people to visit the park, where they can then learn about the rich history of the region.
“Our first step in telling this story is to get families to want to come here,” Bortner said. “As more and more recreation opportunities are create, the visitors will come, and once they’re here, that’s when the education begins.”\
And the facility offers more than a hook for families to learn about the history of Prophetstown, Bortner said. It will also positively affect the community.
“The economic impact of something like this is going to be very, very heavily felt in this area,” he said.
The aquatic center will draw people to the area and will also provide jobs – 23 staff members, including lifeguards, and more staff to man the concessions stands.
Pence said it will also serve as “a great place for families to enjoy in the future” while learning about and losing themselves in “the natural history of Prophetstown.”
Megan Banta is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.