With gloomy clouds overhead and sheets of rain falling over Lolo Peak in the distance behind Splash Montana’s iconic slide tower, the news on Tuesday afternoon was delivered with a somber, typed sign: “Splash Montana is closed due to inclement weather.”
“Yeah, I just heard it today on the news. It shocked me,” says a Washington Middle School student named Nathan who rides up on his bicycle after school. “It’s the middle of summer and you can’t swim.”
Missoula Parks and Recreation closed the facility during its first week of operation following the National Weather Service’s heavy snow advisories for western Montana. Officials point to the weather, the cost of heating the facility’s water—the new 50-meter lap pool is kept at 80 degrees, the play areas at 84 degrees—and the threat of hypothermia as reason enough to shut down.
“We train the lifeguards to know what they’re looking for, and pay extra attention to the little ones,” says Donna Gaukler, director of Missoula Parks and Recreation. “We haven’t had to deal with hypothermia yet, which is why we decided to close it early.”
Gaukler says the park, which hopes to reopen Saturday, June 14, hosts anywhere from 200 to 300 kids each day during this time of year during school field trips. As local schools enter their last two weeks of session, she hopes to aim the yellow busses back toward Splash Montana as soon as possible.
Until then, kids and other patrons can head to Currents Aquatic Center in McCormick Park, where Splash Montana’s season passes will be accepted until the outdoor park reopens.