102 E Michigan Avenue
By Amy Cunningham
Starting to go a little stir-crazy with our usual winter activities, I decided to make a visit to the Urbana Indoor Aquatic Center (UIAC) with my two kids to mix it up a little bit. My kids — ages 7 and 4 — don’t remember their last visit to UIAC several years ago, so this was like our first time all over again.
We arrived for a Friday evening swim just a few minutes after it opened at 6 p.m. There were only a handful of people in the facility, including several people taking a deep-water fitness class. The kids and I took off our shoes in the lobby (which is a strict rule at this facility) and flew through the locker room to get in the water as quickly as possible. UIAC has men’s, women’s and family locker rooms for you to choose from. The family locker room has two locked “wings” inside it where you can change and shower as a family.
We first headed for the zero-depth entry pool. It is very shallow for a large portion of the pool, making it a great fit for toddlers (and big kids who just love playing in the spray-water features). The deepest that pool reaches is 3 feet 6 inches, which means that even my (tall) 4-year-old could easily touch the bottom of the pool.
It wasn’t long before my son began climbing the stairs to the slide. There are two large slides at UIAC. One slide ends in the 3 feet 6 inch depth and another faster, enclosed slide that shoots swimmers out into 12 feet of water. Both slides have a strict 48-inch minimum height requirement; parents are not allowed to catch at the bottom of the shallow slide and riders should be able to swim to the side of the pool for the deep slide.
When we first arrived, the deep-water slide was not turned on and the diving board was off limits, as a water fitness class was wrapping up. It was around 7 p.m. that they were both opened. You have to get out of the water and walk over to that area, as the deepest water is connected to the lap pool, not the zero-depth family pool.
It was around this time that I really tuned into how well the lifeguards were supervising the pool. If I’m going to let my 7-year-old play with the deep-water features (the slide mentioned above and the diving board), I want to be sure they are doing their job to the fullest! I can say with confidence these lifeguards seemed to be quite vigilant, which does not surprise me since I’ve always been impressed with the lifeguards at Crystal Lake during the summer. There were plenty of guards present for the number of people in the facility and I noticed how closely they were watching my son in the deep water in particular.
If you have kids who like to swim in water deeper than the family pool offers, a portion of the lap pool is designated for playing. It is 4 feet deep on one end and 8 feet at the other end. I didn’t actually get in that portion of the pool but you could see how it sloped down as you moved from one end to the other. Again, the lifeguards were watching this area closely but I would only let kids who can truly swim play in this area because of that gradual slope from not-so-deep to deep.
This pool is truly a gem in the C-U community. It was mindfully designed and the staff does a great job in making it a safe place to have fun. My oldest would have stayed there until they closed and kicked us out, as he loved the fast deep-water slide and my youngest wouldn’t stop chatting about the new friends she made, since the zero-depth pool is set up for kids to be able to play together without going in over their heads. Honestly, if I had wanted, I could have watched my kids on this outing from the bleachers without being in the water… but what fun would that have been? We will definitely be heading back a few more times before summer hits to get us through these last cold weeks and polish up our swimming skills for a new season ahead.
DAILY FEE: FACILITY VISITORS
$3 spectator fee
There is a minimum entrance fee of $3 for all who enter the facility.
DAILY FEE : SWIMMERS
$6 per person (FREE for kids through age 3) or $4 on Thursdays
5-Visit Punch Card $25 | 10-Visit Punch Card $50