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History of the Aquadome Pool and Recreation Center
“For a city which has been behind in recreation activities for so many years, it all comes as somewhat of a pleasant shock.” -1/12/69 edition of The Decatur Daily
In the 1960s, the city of Decatur sought to implement an innovative “Master Plan” in order to widen the extent of which its Parks & Recreation Department could improve the city. Jimmy Brown was hired out of Mississippi in October of 1967 to be Director of Recreation, and he brought with him an idea to develop top recreational programs for youths and adults. In addition to ordering the repair of the oft-used baseball and softball fields within the city, Brown and a committee headed by J. Gilmer Blackburn implemented “Operation New Decatur” which saw more than five million dollars poured into recreational centers and activities.
$740,000 of that money went into what was once known as “Blackburn Park” but due to Mayor J. Gilmer Blackburn asking that his name not be used, a contest was held by The Decatur Daily. In a landslide victory, The Aquadome emerged as the winner, beating out Crestview Park, Hillcrest Park, and Southwest Sunshine Park, thus granting a name to the incredibly innovative center.
Although the design was handled locally by Aycock & Neville Architects, the dome itself was produced by Ickes-Braun Glasshouses of Deerfield, IL and officially completed on January 12, 1969. At one-hundred feet in diameter with thirty-six Plexiglas panels, it was the largest dome the firm had ever produced. In fact, with over $85,000 poured into only the dome itself, it should come as no surprise that the Aquadome was once the largest domed pool in the entire nation.
Construction began in 1968 and was officially completed the following April. The ribbon was cut at the grand opening on April 7, 1969. The state-of-the-art facility boasted top-of-the-line sound and lighting systems and that venerable decorative staple of the era: Astroturf. Meanwhile, the adjacent Aquadome Recreational Center offered a fully-outfitted basketball court and classes ranging from square dancing to judo. These services are still offered to this day, although some of the available classes have changed to fit the needs of today.
While it remains closely associated with cannonballs and basketballs, the Aquadome should remain a constant reminder of the innovation that made Decatur the recreation capitol of the south.