Pool struggles to financially stay afloat

bbashioum@demo-mo.comJuly 19, 2013 

Low attendance at the Garden City pool this summer is causing a financial strain for city leaders.

A combination of issues are to blame, including a number of cooler summer days and an increased family pass price, City Administrator Randy Jones said.

Before the start of the this year’s pool season, the Garden City Board of Aldermen voted to raise the cost of the family pool pass from $125 to $175.

“I don’t think it was bad, but it did really hurt because we didn’t sell as nearly as many passes,” Jones said. “They were trying to increase the revenue, but that didn’t help.”

Rain and cooler temperatures from late May through June are also being noted for the decline.

Jones said a woman from the community volunteers her time to teach water aerobic classes at the pool for 10-20 participants four nights a week. Participants are charged $5 a session, which is given to the city. Last season, the sessions generated more than $2,000 in revenue.

But in the last couple weeks, evening temperatures have been too cool for those avid swimmers to be comfortable in the water.

“It was just too cold so they got out and didn’t meet the next night,” Jones said. “It’s just now getting nice. A lot of I think has to do with the weather.”

Jones said the pool had a decent amount of visitors last weekend, July 12-14, including 34 people on Friday, 23 on Saturday and 20 on Sunday.

However, Garden City’s budget isn’t out of the water just yet even if the weather remains warm the rest of the pool’s season.

The city’s financial strain of low attendance has also been met with difficulties of paying back the costs of building the pool.

Garden City voters approved a half-cent sales tax in 2006 to build a new pool for the community, but in recent years, the city has struggled to make payments on the construction of the new pool, which opened the following year.

“The voters voted it in that we have this pool and have the half-percent sales tax that was supposed to make the payment,” Jones said.

But tax revenues throughout the city are proving to not be enough.

“When we got Dollar General in town, that helped a lot because people quit going to Harrisonville and starting buying a lot of their Walmart-type items there,” Jones said. “That really helped our tax revenue, but it still isn’t enough.”

Jones said other city departments have had to make budget cuts in order to keep the city from sinking into a deficit because of the pool.

“The other departments suffer because we have to have money in the account to not go overdrawn,” Jones said.

Three years ago, the pool has also stopped operating on Mondays and Tuesdays, which have typically been slower days, to save on lifeguard costs.

Jones said it costs about $150 a day to staff the lifeguards at the pool.

“We have to pay three lifeguards whether there was anyone there or not, and those were two of our slowest days,” Jones said. “We’ve been trying to think of ways to get people there so we can get out of this mess.”

In recent days, the city has been trying to spark a renewed interest to get more people to come to the pool. Jones hosted a free day on Wednesday for area residents.

“We thought if we let them in free one day, maybe they will come back,” he said.

The city is also planning a youth night 6-9 p.m. Friday, July 26.

The event is for ages 10-18, and will feature pizza, games, glow sticks and prizes. Admission to the pool is $4. There is an additional cost for food and to participate in the games.

“A couple of my lifeguards had gone to the Harrisonville pool last summer and had a teen night there,” Jones said. “They thought it was fun. They played games, had food and prizes, so we’re going to try that.”

The Garden City Pool is located at 700 Willow Ln. Hours are 1-7 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday.

Daily admission is $5/person. Amenities include zero-depth entry and deck spray features.

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