The last week saw the winter’s lowest temperatures so far, but area residents still found ways to have some outdoor fun in the deep chill, thanks to some facility updates and nifty technology.
A giant plastic bubble installed for the first time over the outdoor pool at the Lakota Family YMCA in Liberty Township allowed hundreds of area families to wade into fun.
“It’s 13 degrees outside but 84 in here,” said John Schaller, chief executive officer of the YMCA, as he stood poolside last week in the outdoor swim area that traditionally was drained for every winter until now.
The $500,000 investment by the athletic facility saw the 25,000-square-foot dome installed in November, doubling the pool capacity available to YMCA members this winter.
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“The palm trees (rubber facsimiles) are up in the … beach area of the YMCA pool, and you can just see by the happy faces that this is a great retreat, for the families in our area and for the community to get out of the cold and get into a beautiful setting for indoor water play,” Schaller said over the din of an artificial waterfall and real-life, playful laughter of kids splashing around.
“It’s just been a spectacular addition to our Y.”
Karissa Tejada, mother of three young swimmers, paused between splashes to rave about the new cold-weather option for fun.
“This is awesome. It’s the end of December and 11 degrees outside and we can be in here enjoying the beautiful pool … and the kids are having a good time,” Tejada said.
Summer in winter
Kenneth Hughes woke up on single-digit morning last week and decided that was a good day to play some golf.
The Hamilton County resident coaxed his friends into going to West Chester Township’s Top Golf attraction, Southwest Ohio’s only year-around, outdoor golf facility.
“We just can’t let cold weather keep us from coming out,” Hughes said. “It’s the first time for me here and a lot fun.”
Advanced heating technology allows the open-air driving range to keep busy through the winter.
The 64,232-square-foot facility opened in 2016 and features 102 climate-controlled hitting bays that host up to six players at one time. Players rack up points by hitting microchip-embedded golf balls into one of 11 colorful, illuminated target areas from 20 to 240 yards on the outfield.
Golf isn’t the only thing available at the new attraction. There are dozens of high-definition flatscreen TVs, an extensive food and beverage menu, private event space, pool tables, a shuffleboard table, foosball and fire pits.
Anne Winegardner, Top Golf marketing manager, said neither cold nor snow slows business.
“We have three heaters in each (golf) bay, and it keeps it approximately 20 degrees warmer than the outside temperature. And you can eat and drink under the heaters, and it’ll keep you nice and warm,” Winegardner said.
Some unique fun in the cold
And there are other ways locally to enjoy the cold including one as old as gravity.
Sledding is available once enough snow accumulates on Butler County’s only man-made sledding hill at the Voice of America (VOA) MetroPark in West Chester.
The 65-foot “Chill Hill” was created from scooped-out dirt during the enlargement of a nearby park lake, and officials with the county’s MetroParks said its other parks also offer sledding, hiking, birding and various activities.
“While the weather outside is chilly that doesn’t mean that cool things aren’t happening in the parks,” said Kelly Barkley
“Also, new at VOA this year is nighttime sledding. When adequate snowfall and temperature conditions are expected to provide enough snow cover on Chill Hill for nighttime sled riding, an announcement will be placed on the MetroParks website page that Chill Hill is open for night time lighted sledding from 5-9 p.m. with fire pit roaring and hot cocoa for sale.”
How about some shopping?
Indoor winter fun is a short drive away at some of the county’s unique retail offerings including two of the region’s largest flea markets in Monroe, just off of Interstate 75.
On a typical winter weekend, Trader’s World and Treasure Aisles flea markets, which stand across from one another, divided by the highway at the Ohio 63 interchange, draws more than 20,000 shoppers to its expansive indoor shopping, food courts and entertainment.
And the center of the “foodie” universe can be found at the unique Fairfield attraction of Jungle Jim’s International Market, which offers scheduled tours - as well as numerous events and entertainment during the winter season.