Hibbing opens region’s first splash pad

Ava Koskela, 6, and Olivia Sallila, 12, are the first to get in on the action during Thursday's official grand opening of the region's first splash pad at Bennett Park in Hibbing.

HIBBING — Pete Hyduke, director of City Services, was all smiles on Thursday as a crowd formed at Bennett Park in Hibbing to celebrate the grand opening of the region’s first splash pad.

“We are actually going to try to have the real grand opening today,” Hyduke told attendees while smirking. The event was a “re-do” after the original opening on July 15 ended on a dry note as Hyduke learned that the Hibbing Public Utilities had lost a leg of power to the park and repairs were needed.

As he spoke this week, kids readied themselves in swimsuits near the sprayers. “It should work and I think [the project] has been a tremendous success and should be just great moving forward.”

Hyduke thanked everyone involved in funding the project and then the crowd began to count down. At the shout of “One!” the grand opening ribbon was cut and 12-year-old Olivia Sallila of Hibbing hit the button in the center of the splash pad, causing water to shoot high into the air along with delighted squeals.

The splash pad is located within the 34-acre park and is 100 percent handicap accessible. There are 11 sprayers that can be activated by a button anytime between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. during the months of June-August when the weather is above 70 degrees. There are several different styles of spouts that spray in four-minute cycles with patterns that continually alternate. Eight of the 11 sprayers are always going anytime the attraction is on, with all the water sloping down to a drain at the center.

An added bonus is that five of the sprayers can be added onto with above ground features, like sprinklers. Hyduke said they will likely wait a year before adding more. For now, everyone seems to be enjoying the new attraction as is.

“Kids can hit the button and at the center and there’s a sensor that will shut it down if no one is using it,” Hyduke said. “It’s very efficient.”

In recent weeks, Hyduke told the Hibbing Daily Tribune he first began seeking funding for the splash pad in 2017 as he partnered with the Hibbing Foundation, an affiliate of the Saint Paul and Minnesota Foundations. In 2018, the city designated $100,000 from the capital budget for the project, and grants were awarded from the Hibbing Foundation and the Owens-Pesavento / Dr. Benjamin P. Owens Family Foundation of Hibbing. Funds also came from Dr. Jan Baldwin, and from the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation’s Culture and Tourism Grant Program through the Hibbing Foundation. In the end, the total price tag of the attraction came close to $130,000.

“The City of Hibbing Parks and Recreation, Nick Bougalis Construction, and SBS Paving was who did all of the construction and they did just a beautiful job,” Hyduke told the crowd Thursday.

He also made sure to give special thanks to the IRRRB’s granting agent, Danae Beaudette, and Jennifer Hoffman Saccoman with the Hibbing Foundation for their efforts.

Also in attendance at the opening was Patty Shafer, a former Hibbing councilor who served for 24 years, including the year the city awarded the project the majority of its funding. As she watched the kids run through the water, she told the HDT, “It’s a wonderful addition to the park for people of all ages and for those who are handicapped. I’m certain it will be utilized to the fullest, and in the coming years it will be added onto.” Schafer continued, “They did a good job planning and putting it together.”

The new “clean water” splash pad was built on the existing slab left over from the 1980s wading pool, which was shut down shortly after opening due to liability and health concerns. Without the existing slab, Hyduke said the project would have been much more expensive to complete.

“It was nice that it was here,” he told the HDT recently. “We were able to reuse the old and bring it into the new.”

The power issues that stalled the original grand opening on July 15 were repaired by that evening, so Hyduke had allowed the splash pad to “unofficially” open the following day. Residents have been visiting the splash pad steadily ever since, bringing with blankets to lounge on and chairs for relaxing under the trees nearby as children pad around in the water.

Official signs with splash pad rules are posted and there are picnic tables in a small building attached for parents and park goers to use. However Hyduke said they intend to add in the future tables with umbrellas along the grassy areas that surround Hibbing’s new attraction.

The splash pad is the newest feature added to Bennett Park. Last year, the basketball court was refurbished by the Minnesota Timberwolves FastBreak. There’s also a playground, skateboarding ramps, baseball and softball fields, paved trails, bocce ball and Horseshoe courts, pavilions and picnic tables. The park is even home to a Miracle League, which was a project completed with the help of the Minnesota Twins in recent years.

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