City looks to revamp pool after weak season

By ALLEN LAMAN
alaman@dcherald.com

JASPER — After booming 2016 and 2017 seasons, attendance at the Jasper Municipal Swimming Pool dropped by about 1,000 swimmers this year, and the pool pulled in almost $10,000 less than it did last summer.

Janessa Wagner, recreation director for the Jasper Park & Recreation Department, informed the Jasper Park Board of the losses at the board’s monthly meeting Tuesday afternoon. Going forward, the group will discuss what they can do to bring those numbers back up in 2019.

“I think it’s important because it gets people outside again,” Wagner said when asked why the pool is important to the community. “People may have their own pools at home, but it’s a great place to meet your friends and just spend the day swimming and hanging out. It’s just a great community locator — a central place for you to meet your friends and hang out.”

Wagner said in a Wednesday phone interview that there’s no real rhyme or reason why the numbers dropped so steeply, but noted pool party revenue was down. She said 2017 also brought impeccable weather to bolster attendance, while June 2018 was filled with storms and rain that forced the pool to close — some days just 90 minutes after opening — because of the weather conditions. And though she doesn’t have the hard data to back it up, Wagner said another culprit could be the “Fortnite” video game sensation sheltering kids indoors.

Wagner said a reason why the decline looks so severe is because of the great seasons the pool had the last two years. The pool raked in about $74,000 in 2016 and about $75,000 in 2017, but only netted about $65,000 this year. This year, 15,128 swimmers visited the facility, while those numbers were 16,113 in 2017 and 16,906 in 2016. A yearly report document obtained from Wagner, however, shows the pool still made more money this summer than it did in 2014 and 2015, and the facility also brought in more swimmers in 2018 than it did during the 2014 season.

At this point, Wagner doesn’t have any concrete ideas to pull people into the facility, but said building a new pool “isn’t in the cards right now for the city,” so the park department will need to look at other, cheaper avenues to excite potential attendees. Discussed changes offered at the park board meeting include adding more shade structures for adult guests at the pool and other fixtures, such as a splash pad. The pool is currently outfitted with two diving boards and one slide — all three of which are from the original pool, which was built in 1956.

“We have to look at either revamping those or adding more,” Wagner said. “We’re not quite sure what the answer is at this time.”

Finding new ways to advertise the pool and promote the sale of coupon books were also discussed at the meeting.

According to Herald archives, the pool has outlived the usual 30- to 50-year lifespan for outdoor pools. Structurally, the maintenance team still keeps the pool in good shape, Wagner said. And even though numbers are down, she said the pool is still a sanctuary for some kids in the summer.

The city looked at the possibility of replacing the pool in 2014 when it hired Evansville-based architectural firm Hafer Associates to conduct a study and come up with possible designs for a new aquatic center. At the time, the study found that residents wanted a pool that would attract visitors and new residents and serve as a viable alternative to Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari.

The study yielded four possible designs ranging from $4.1 to $6.7 million, depending on features included. All the options included a walk-in leisure pool, a wading pool, water slides, diving boards and lap lanes.

Around that time, however, the Parklands project came on the table, and the city and parks department decided to pursue that, placing the pool on the back-burner. At the park board meeting Tuesday, board president Roger Seger said the prospect of building a new pool will be hurt if attendance and revenue numbers continue to fall.

The current pool — which closed for the season on Sunday — will be a point of discussion at the park board’s next meeting at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 11, in the council chambers at City Hall, 610 Main St., Jasper.




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