RAWLINS – Add the Rawlins Aquatics Center to the list of public facilities that have reopened following a nearly two-month-long closure. Before you grab your swimsuits and pool noodles, though, keep in mind the pool has opened but with plenty of social distancing protocols in place to ensure the safety of the public and staff amid novel coronavirus concerns.

During the roughly eight weeks the facilities were closed to the public, they were thoroughly cleaned and sanitized. The RAC staff cleaned all hard surfaces, pool decks, locker rooms, restrooms, entrances and exits. Additionally, the pools were drained and deep cleaned, a painstaking process because of hard water build-up that is common in Rawlins. RAC staff used pumice stones and cleaned the empty pools by hand, a process that took roughly three weeks.

The director of the Rawlins Aquatics Center, TJ Johnson, also used the time during the closure to develop a plan for reopening when the day came. Tuesday was that day and the RAC staff was more than prepared.

“I was getting the feeling from the governor's press conferences and also from what other facilities were doing nationally that we would likely be able to open soon,” said Johnson. “I used guidelines from the CDC and what other national groups were doing to put together a plan to open. I contacted Total Aquatics, the consulting firm for USA Swimming. I sent them my plan for reopening and they thought it was spot on.”

On Monday morning, a video was posted on the RAC Facebook page that detailed and demonstrated the process for using the facilities while still maintaining social-distancing practices. At this point in the progression of the global pandemic, the public is aware of and used to social distancing. Johnson expects easy adoption of the rules and hopes to successfully carry out this first phase of reopening so they can develop more phases sooner than later.

In order to use the Rawlins Aquatic Center facilities, users must first call ahead and schedule a time to visit during one of the three, two-hour daily time frames. No one will be permitted inside the RAC without being put on the schedule. Users should call ahead at least 48 hours in advance, as time and space is extremely limited in this first phase of reopening.

Visitors to the RAC should expect to have their temperatures taken at the door, paperwork completed on each visit and should arrive in and leave in their swimsuits. Locker room facilities will be closed and just one bathroom stall in each locker room will be available for use during swim times. Save for goggles, visitors will not be permitted to bring their own pool equipment like paddle boards, pool noodles, etc.

Following each of the three, two-hour sessions when the facilities are open to the public, the staff will conduct thorough cleanings of all hard surfaces. All visitors are expected to wear face masks when outside of the water.

The rules are strict and the RAC staff is committed to enforcing them in order to remain open and eventually expand hours and bring back programming like swim lessons and water aerobics. The initial few days of reopening left Johnson encouraged.

“The response from the public has been good,” he said. “It’s been a little slow to start because not everyone knows we’re open yet. The first we had 21 people come in, yesterday was about 20. I expect it to continue to go up and if this plan goes well, we’ll be able to expand our hours and available slots in the pools.”

The opening of the Rawlins Aquatics Center comes just in time as school winds down and the weather warms up in Rawlins. It is also a semblance of normalcy when every aspect of day-to-day life has been turned upside down.The pool facilities will allow local residents the opportunity to get out of the house and enjoy an amenity that has been off-limits for the past couple of months.

Even better, according to Johnson, the novel coronavirus cannot live inside of the chlorinated swimming pool water. That in mind, if the public follows the social distancing plan, the RAC is one of the safest, cleanest places to be.

To schedule time at the Rawlins Aquatics Center, call 307-328-9272 and visit the RAC’s Facebook page to get up to speed on all the social distancing requirements.

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