FRIEND, NE — The Memorial Day splashes, smiles and front flips in Friend are years in the making.

The Saline County city opened its new $2.68 million swimming pool on Monday. Kristen Milton chairs the Friend pool project committee. She says three years of planning led to this moment.

“(The committee) has put in countless hours so to see all these kids in here today makes it all worth it,” Milton said.

The city’s old, round pool built in 1936 was starting to fail. Friend residents showed support for a new complex by passing a $3 million bond issue paid for through a half-percent sales tax. The group has only taken $2.5 million. The pool committee also fundraised for a portion of the costs.

Milton says the pool design is completely original and even includes a toast to the past.

“We got a lot of feedback when we altered the children’s area to be more round in memory to the old pool," Milton said. "It’s so nostalgic and iconic to Friend that it was truly important for us to do that.”

Her favorite part is the nod to the high school mascot.

“Oh the bulldog slide (is my favorite) for sure," Milton said. "It’s awesome.”

But Milton says the new pool means more to Friend than just a diving board and slide.

“I think it’s going to be great to attracting citizens, retaining citizens, jobs in the summer for these kids, keeping our community healthy as well," Milton said. "I think it’s going to be great for a long, long time.”

Some elements are still on the way. Milton expects the parking lot to be ready in about two weeks, a children’s play structure is delayed by the pandemic and lights will be installed later in the summer.

Members of the Friend Pool Committee include Milton, Julie Ricenbaw, Eric Bresson, Jen Stutzman and Carey Potter.