STUART — Some 1,000 area residents on Saturday became the first to try out the long-awaited Sailfish Splash Waterpark's slides, Lazy River, water playground and swimming pools.
"We didn't have as many as forecast," said Craig Anderson, marketing coordinator for Martin County Parks and Recreation, "but in a way, it's a blessing."
The water park opened to season-pass holders at 10 a.m., just after a dedication ceremony attended by several dozen county employees, politicians and contractors who worked on the complex. Pass holders will have the facility to themselves until next Saturday, when it opens to the general public.
Anderson was grateful most of the 8,700 season-pass holders probably were dissuaded by Saturday's gloomy weather. Delays in installing kitchen equipment and fingerprint scanners for pass holders left park officials unprepared for a big crowd. Mobile food vendors filled in for the closed kitchen.
"It's all going to be done by next weekend," Anderson said.
Most visitors never noticed the glitches. The slides, rides and pools they came for worked just fine.
County Commissioner Edward Ciampi's 10-year-old niece Jessica Ciampi of Palm City was one of the first to try out the two four-story slides.
"I liked how it kept swirling," she said. "It was dark and you couldn't see. It was really fast."
Lorraine Comfort of Stuart headed straight for the Lazy River, where bathers in inflated rings float along a 1,000-foot loop.
"It has a good speed to it and lots of surprises," she said, "like water raining down on you."
Comfort expects her visit to be the first of many through the summer.
"I work outside in the sun all day and thought this would be a good place to cool off," she said.
Parks and Recreation Director Kevin Abbate said in his dedication speech that he envisions residents bonding over fun-filled days at the park.
"We're going to deliver a product I think this community will enjoy forever," he said.
On the opposite side of the two-acre recreation area, Raymond Connor of Stuart was bonding with gravity. The 10-year-old took his first jump from a three-meter springboard into the Olympic-size pool. The pool is expected to host local swim and dive teams. A smaller, adjacent pool will be used for water aerobics and other activities.
"It was kind of scary," Connor said. "I didn't want to jump."
But he did, before going back for more.
"I like it," he continued. "It's really cool."