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Losses have Park District rethinking pool's future

Losses have Park District rethinking pool's future

2 years ago by Jamie Busen

Wavering Aquatic Center has lost $55,000 over the last two years

Quincy Park District officials are calling the latest summer swimming season a gamechanger regarding the future of Wavering Aquatic Center.

This year, Wavering lost $35,102 as attendance dropped by about 5,000. Last year, the pool lost more than $20,000.

During Wednesday night's Board meeting, Commissioners decided to hold off on including money for engineering work in the new fiscal year budget which begins in January. At their August retreat meeting, the Board had planned to insert $65,000 to cover - or at least start - the design work for a new pool.

But Park Board President John Frankenhoff said the season figures show that "we need to re-evaluate our position and our plans. There are things in Quincy that have changed."

Those changes include more options for would-be swimmers. The Kroc Center had its first full summer season, and Sheridan Swim Club went through major renovations and "aggressively sought people to come to their facility," said Frankenoff, who said it’s understandable those groups would market their facilities.

"The general position of the Park District is, we don't want to compete with other facilities here in town, that's not generally what we do," he said. "Our idea is, we want to provide recreational activities. If other people are doing that, we can step back and focus on other areas. If that means we would only operate one pool down the road as Wavering reaches its end of life, so be it. I don't think that's a bad thing, so long as the community’s needs are being met."

The Salvation Army's Major Dan Jennings said: "The Kroc Center has added more choices for Quincy and the surrounding community. We are one of only a couple of dozen communities to receive the opportunity to receive such an unprecedented facility.

There will, obviously, be some overlap of activities and programs in our community that will be offered at the Kroc Center and other organizations. However at the end of the day, the positives that the Kroc Center brings far outweigh any challenges that arise from its being opened in Quincy. We are hopeful that the Park District pools will continue to thrive and that our community will be able to enjoy them for many years to come. We are also hopeful that people will continue to enjoy the programs and venues at the Kroc Center."

Frankenhoff said the Board will wait another year to initiate design work for Wavering and have another summer to evaluate the numbers of people coming to the pool. He expects a decision will be made next fall.

"I think it was a good idea to delay spending that money until we know more," he said. "The whole picture of Quincy has changed and we can't ignore that."

Repairs at Wavering - which is more than 32 years old - are becoming more frequent as equipment wears out.

"It's going to get to a certain point that it's not going to be feasible to repair it," Frankenhoff said. "That could be two more summers, it could be five more summers. It's hard to predict - but at a certain point, why put a lot of money into a facility ... tax payers shouldn't have to support it if it's losing a lot of money."

Most years, the pools don't break even. In 2009, WAC lost $11,500. The following year, that number was less than $200. But the loss is rising. Combined with Indian Mounds, the two lost more than $63,000 - that's more than $25,000 higher than the previous year.

"We'd always accepted that as the nature of the situation ... most of our programs and facilities do that. We don't make money at our facilities," Frankenhoff said. "But when the amount we are losing starts to increase, now that changes the picture."

Taxpayers make up that difference and a small loss, Frankenhoff said, is expected and acceptable. But there comes a point where the cost is just too high.

"That's why we are re-evaluating," he said.

Options could include closing Wavering and focusing on more improvements/additions to Indian Mounds Pool.

Park District Executive Director Ed Seger said they've discovered the District's pools right now are "in a state of flux." He said next year, they would aggressively market the District pools and make changes such as offering special passes or 2 for 1 days.

"We are going to try to market the pools and make it the best year we can possibly have," Seger said. "We need to know if we are stable, to see whether we can increase or if this is as good as it's ever going to get."


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