COLUMBIA CITY — “This is a place where families, people, can come together and be together. It’s not only a Columbia City facility. It’s not only a Whitley County facility. It is a northeast Indiana regional facility and you can all be very proud of that.”

Columbia City Mayor Ryan Daniel was one of many speakers at the ribbon-cutting and grand opening of the Russel & Evelyn Fahl Aquatics Center in Columbia City on Saturday — an exciting event for all in attendance.

“This truly is a historic day in Columbia City,” Daniel said. “The reason this facility is here is because of you and your excitement, and the donors who have been a part of it.

“To everyone who has worked so hard, to everyone who has made a difference to this facility — I say ‘thank you’ — our community says ‘thank you.’”

Sixty years ago in the same location, Columbia City opened Burnworth Memorial Pool. In recent years, the pool became a burden on the city’s tax dollars. It was in poor condition and in need of expensive repairs. Planning for the new facility began in 2013, and Burnworth pool closed for good in 2016.

When Mayor Daniel first took office in 2011, he had different thoughts about the future of aquatics in Columbia City. But local residents had something else to say about that.

“I thought we should just close it and be out of the pool business,” Daniel said. “But they changed my mind and this asset is going to be a huge community development, talent attraction and retention tool for our community.”

Sometimes, things happen for a reason. For instance, the Park Board originally sought a different location for the new pool — north of U.S. 30 and west of the Blue River — an extension of Morsches Park. The use of the property fell through, and the board reverted back to the former pool location.

“It would have been a fine location, but it would have been a challenge for a lot of people who use it day in and day out,” Daniel said. “It’s in the right spot, especially with the future of that space.”

The pool is located near the current Columbia City High School, which will move south of Columbia City in 2020 after the construction of the new facility. The high school land will then become Columbia City park space.

The growth embodies the city’s motto, “Building a Future Together,” as well as northeast Indiana’s regional goal of improving quality of life to grow the region to 1 million residents.

Brad Bishop, Regional Development Authority director, also spoke at the grand opening.

“We’re so excited to see projects like this take shape,” Bishop said.

The Regional Development Authority received $42 million in state funding for use in projects that are expected to spur economic growth.

“It’s great to get the money flowing and get things on the ground like this,” Bishop said. “Economic development is different now. You can’t just build an industrial park and expect people to come. You have to make it so people want to live in your community. Projects like this are something to be proud of. It will make the people who are here want to stay here, and people thinking about relocating here will come here.”

Another large source of funding for the project was the family of the late Russel and Evelyn Fahl.

“My heart is bursting with pride for my parents,” said Pam McCoy. “Anyone who knew them — knew all of their years of hard work and sacrifice which enabled them to leave such a wonderful legacy, not only to our family, but to enrich the community. This aquatics center and their legacy will live on for future generations.”

Daniel recognized Park Director Mark Green, who has worked “tirelessly” to make the facility possible.

“He has done a fantastic job in leading this effort,” Daniel said. “Without a strong leader, none of this would have been possible.”

Green recalled going to Burnworth Pool every day as a child.

“At the time, I never thought I’d be the one responsible for replacing Burnworth Pool,” Green said. “I love this place, I loved growing up here and living here. I hope you all enjoy this.”

The pool is open to the public noon-7 p.m. daily. Parking is in the Columbia City High School parking lot, 600 N. Whitley St.

Daily rates are as follows:

In county: $5 for children ages 3-17 and seniors 60 and over/$6 for adults.

Memberships for 2018 have been discounted due to the shortened season. Residents can purchase a senior membership for $45, adults are $55, children are $45 and infants ages 0-2 are free. A family pass for three people is $140, four passes are $150, five passes are $180 and six passes are $225.

The city also offers swim lessons and the opportunity to be part of the swim team, which take place in the morning.

People, businesses and nonprofits are also able to rent the pavilion for parties. For more information, visit