Seriously. Our visit to the Salem Kroc Community Center was super fun – so fun that we went out for pizza and then came back, and were at the center for over 7 hours total! The reason that it might be the find of the year for us when we don’t even live here? Because there are Salvation Army Kroc Centers all over the US! 27 of them to be exact!
The Kroc centers have a really fun and interesting story behind them. They are named after Mrs. Joan Kroc, who’s husband was the founder of McDonalds. She 1998 she gave 90 million dollars for a community center to be built in San Diego. That center was completed in 2001, with the goal of bring the community together, and to provide activities and art opportunities that kids and adults in the community might not otherwise have. When Mrs. Kroc passed on in 2003, she donated a large part of her estate to the Salvation Army; $1.5 billion dollars designated to provide for more community centers to be built across the US. Now, there are 27 centers in all.
Prior to visiting the Salem (Oregon) Kroc Community Center, we had not been exposed to SA’s Kroc centers other than seeing them in passing. When we were in Augusta, GA last spring volunteering with ice storm cleanups, the younger kids and I (Dana) took a canal boat tour – a tour that passes the Augusta, Georgia KROC Center. I remember seeing it, and wondering about it, but since I had a hard time finding much info on it, we didn’t go. Now, I’m wishing I had inquired more! In fact, looking at the list of Kroc locations, we’ve spent considerable time in 5 cities with Kroc centers, and had no clue we were passing up such a cool family-friendly stop!
Kroc Centers are a safe place for individuals and families to come out and learn/experience new things.
They are also a great place to go work out, have a lot of fun, and maybe just relax! We did a little of all 3 (well, except me. I didn’t do anything that would qualify as working out. 😉 ).
We arrived about noon, and checked in. KROC centers are dedicated to being a safe, family-friendly atmosphere, so there is some paperwork involved if you are a first time or day visitor! We had to fill out a paper that listed all the persons that were in our group, and everyone 18 and older had to show photo ID. painless.unless you forget your ID.
The staff was super helpful, and the guy that checked us in answered all our newbie questions!
Each location offers different amenities; the Salem KROC has extensive exercise equipment,
We went to Salem Kroc for the water park, and got sidetracked first thing in the door! While Vaughn and I were filling out paperwork, the kids were gawking at the climbing wall. At the wall, we filled out release forms, and the kids learned to put on the climbing harnesses thanks to the 2 friendly “KROC KREW’ members working the area (all staff wear shirts that are clearly marked).
While everyone thought it was fun to try different ropes up the wall, and went multiple times, Peanut and Joel were our resident mountain goats; they climbed up and repelled down that wall over and over again.
The layout of the wall changes monthly, with the holds being moved, so the wall is fun and new even if you are a regular visitor. And if you are looking for a extra challenge, the colored route tape that comes down from each hold show different color-coded routes up the wall – each with a varying difficulty level.
The kids didn’t do any routes, just climbed to the top.
The 2 auto belays above Jake and Emma were self reeling – as you climbed, they would automatically spool the rope up inside. The ropes do not provide any support… If you slip, you swing, and the tension on the rope makes you begin to descend as the belay slowly lets out the rope. The other ropes were on rings, and a staff member would spot for you.
The kids enjoyed trying out their strength on the easier courses, then began to challenge themselves by timing their ascent and trying more difficult climbs.
We got there fairly early in the day, and there weren’t very many other people, so the kids just did the wall over and over.and over.
When everyone’s muscles were tired and sore, and there began to be a line, we decided to share the wall, and we headed for the pool!
The pool area has a large locker room with restrooms, a large row of lockers, and 15 individual changing rooms; each spacious room has a toilet, shower, sink, changing station, and bench.
The lockers are great! You provide the lock, and you can use the locker all day for free, which makes it really nice that you don’t have to lug your stuff everywhere with you (you can bring a lock, purchase one at the front desk for $4.50, or just leave your stuff in a locker at your own risk).
After changing into swimsuits, we went out to the water park. It was rather chilly outdoors, and I was worried that we would be freezing in the pool area, but it was toasty warm!
There was lots to enjoy in the water park: (*working from the top in the pic below) a lazy river along with a platform complete with water guns, a hot tub (ages 14 and up), round pool area, and a gradual slope ramp that winds from the round pool area up to the shallow kiddie splash pad…the pool in the lower left corner of the pic is the catch pool at the bottom of the water slide.
The deepest any area in this pool is, is 3.5 feet.
The boys liked the lazy river, and enjoyed spraying each other with the water guns. There are also 2 dump buckets in this area that fill up and then dump their contents on unsuspecting (or carefully planning) swimmers below.
These boys loved the lazy river and since the pool was not busy, they had a great time splashing and playing!
The center has multiple lifeguards on duty…there were 3 continually walking their part of the pool area, one in the water slide catch pool, and another at the top of the waterslide.
At the other end of the pool (bottom right of above overall pic) is a shallow toddler area. There is a small slide, called the ‘stump slide’ because it looks like a tree stump, that the little girls and Caleb loved.
This was a pretty exciting night for us. Caleb has always been over-the-top freaked out by water. To the point that he would shake and cry if we washed his face with a washcloth. But last year, with a lot of encouragement (and being forced to deal with it) he began to really push himself in the pools in Florida. I wondered how we would do a the water park; and he did fabulous! In fact, so much so that the night did not end on a good note for Caleb. lol. When we first arrived, he had to really be coaxed to head down the slide the first time. Daddy was at the bottom to catch him, but he was still afraid. He slid, Daddy caught, and you could see his little wheels turning – he wasn’t sure he liked it, but he did like the praise, and the thrill of it. He went down the slide over and over, and by the end of the night, he was heading down the slide without anyone being at the bottom! In fact, he when it was time to go, he cried and cried and kept saying, “I stay in the water!” – to the point that Vaughn took him out to the van while I waited for the other 7 kids.
So, we went from throwing a fit from being too close to water, to throwing a fit because he did not want to get out!!! Now to work on the fit part. lol.
The stump was the water slide that Peanut started her day out on…
…but she didn’t end it there.
The park also has a water slide near the tot area’s dump bucket (looks like a pelican!) and a whale tail water spray… this one is a little bigger…
Of course the water slide was popular with Emma and up.
The center has rules for the parental oversight of kids, based on age, throughout the building. A very general overview (there are some exceptions) is that up through 6, children need to be within an arms length of the parent, 7-9 parent needs to be in the same room as the child, 10 thru 14 parent needs to be in the building, and 15 and up are considered adults and can use the facilities independently.
Emma and Joel lived in the lazy river and on the water slide, while the 3 bigger boys were in and out of both pools, and then would get dressed and check out the game room or go play basketball.
And this girl… (Savanna) did her first ‘big girl’ water slide!!! She asked if she could go – she barely squeaked by the height restriction, and was pretty nervous, but she was determined to conquer it! She came out of the catch pool giggling. Course, she is a bit of a daredevil, and the next time she laid down (makes you go faster) and came shooting out the bottom – she ended up being under the water longer from going so fast, and she didn’t like that quite as much. lol. But, right back up she went!
The Salem KROC Center has a second pool also. Set in an adjoining room, this area is called the competition pool. For open swim, there are 3 different areas – the lap half, the diving board area, and free space at this bottom end. 2 lifeguards oversee the pool, and the room is not nearly as warm as the water park since it is more of an exercise pool.
If you want to use the comp pool, be sure to check its schedule; it is not always open for general swim as it is used for other venues including swim meets.
The boys spent most of their time in this pool playing water basketball.
The center offers various fun activities – every first Friday night is Family Fun Night – we didn’t go, but this month it was a ‘Dive-In Movie’! The center turns out the overhead lights in the competition pool, but leaves the underwater lights on – everyone brings floaties (or you can use the center’s), and they lay in the pool and watch a projected movie. November’s movie was Monster’s University. How fun is that!?!?!
After a couple of hours, the littles were getting hungry, so they got dressed so that we could go to a late lunch – then they all wanted to come back to the center. As a day visitor, at check in you are given printed passes with your names on them; you can use them to come and go at the center for that day.
Apparently they weren’t too hungry, because they got sidetracked by the staffed art room! The art room is for ages 10 and under, and is open every day but Tues. and Thurs.
Projects vary every day; the day we were there, the kids were making turkeys…
Well, some of the kids were making turkeys. All that water play wears a boy out!
The Salem KROC Community Center does not allow outside food in (but you are free to leave and return); they have a fun little coffee shop that carries some snack items. And hot cocoa!
The KROC Center has all sorts of fun classes – from swim lessons (fee) to free line dancing classes; there is tons to do! If you are just traveling through a KROC area, be sure to check their online schedules to find out the best day to go (because who would want to miss a Dive-In Movie???).
Yes, we did finally leave the center, and went out for pizza. But we hurried right back, where the kids spent hours more in the pools, and we did the climbing wall again (and again) – we took some turns on our way back in to the pool, and then after we were done swimming and on our way out the door! Pretty sure some of these kiddos would have their own climbing shoes if we were here longer.
Vaughn even got up on the wall and made it to the top; he said it was harder than it looked! lol.
So, what did the tribe think of the Salem KROC Center?
20 thumbs up!
~it’s an inexpensive venue with day passes at $7 for adults, and $5 for youth (17 and under) and seniors (62+); admission is good from arrival until closing of that day (we were there for 7 hours!). The center has punch cards that save you $1/visit, or you can also get monthly and yearly memberships. For those of you that are stationary, did you know that a local membership is good at other KROC centers. If you are traveling to another area with a Kroc center, you can visit it with your existing membership; the one you are visiting will simply call your home location to verify.
~there are so many activities (they vary by location) that everyone is sure to find something they love!
~the facility was well maintained, clean, and very family friendly!
We loved our visit to the Salem Kroc Community Center; the kids thought we should go back the next day! We will be looking for other Kroc Centers to visit down the road.
You can find more information on the Salem Kroc Center here, and an overview of the program as well as the locations of the 28 centers nationwide here. Check them out!