by Dennis Dalman
A swimming pond in Sartell’s Pinecone Central Park seems to be a receding option, one the city council had hoped would become a reality someday.
At the last city-council meeting, Tom Schaefer of U.S. Aquatics, gave the council an overview of what he knows about ponds, pools and aquatic centers in the state. He has worked on half of the 12 official swimming ponds in Minnesota. Right now there is a state moratorium on developing ponds for swimming in the state.
Ponds can be very problematic, Schaefer noted. Most often ponds are murky, and lifeguards cannot see the bottoms. In the past three years there have been four drownings in Minnesota swimming ponds, a rate far greater than that of man-made outdoor pools, Schaefer noted.
Swimming ponds also require disinfectant and filtration, which can be difficult and expensive. Water doesn’t warm up in most of them until the end of June, something most swimmers wouldn’t care for because Schaefer said the number-one asset for a swimming pond or pool is that the water should be warm, about 85 degrees, according to most polls of outdoor swimmers.
“Swimmers nowadays don’t want chilly water anymore,” he said.
Council member Steve Hennes asked Schaefer what is the most economical kind of swimming facility.
It’s an outdoor aquatics center, he replied. Indoor pools are heavily subsidized and very expensive to operate, he noted. An outdoor seasonal pool is the best bet, especially if it has interactive play features such as climbing walls, water chutes or splash pads. Those amenities increase attendance, and the paid admissions to cover operating costs.
The city of Kasson just finished such a center last year, and it has been a big success, with attendance increasing all the time. It is a $4.2-million, L-shaped multi-purpose pool with many interactive features. Kasson is a city of 5,200 people.
Another outdoor aquatics center is in Byron, a city of 6,200 people. Both cities are near Rochester and draw people from that metro area. Both pools have large concession areas and lots of shade. The concession stands generate from 20 to 30 percent of the facilities’ operating revenues.
For any kind of swimming facility to succeed –indoor, outdoor man-made or pond – admissions have to be charged, Schaefer emphasized. Even with admissions, most facilities just barely break even, he added.
In Kasson, a daily admission to the aquatics center is $5. Season passes are available at $20 per child for parent-tot hour swims. A family membership per season is $150 for residents, $170 for non-residents. Individual memberships are $80 for a city resident, $90 for non-residents.
Passbooks of 10 daily passes are also available.
photo courtesy of www.cityofkasson.com
An example of a splash pad as part of an aquatics center in Kasson, Minn.