Some of the hottest days of the summer are coming weeks after Springfield’s public pool closed for the year and recorded its lowest attendance numbers in its 7-year history.
The Splash Zone Family Aquatic Center’s attendance suffered a 28 percent decline from the year before because of inclement weather, according to National Trail Parks and Recreation District officials.
The pool, located at 300 Eagle City Road, saw 21,377 visitors this, down approximately 8,300 visitors from last year.
The pool’s budget for this year was approximately $282,000. Final financial numbers for the pool were unavailable because bills are still being paid, NTPRD Director Leann Castillo said.
However, board members aren’t expected to make significant changes because they feel it’s a service to the community.
“Every community like Springfield needs to have a public pool,” said NTPRD’s board president, Maureen Massaro. “It’s important that we provide that to the community.”
Clark County’s only other public pools are located in South Charleston and New Carlisle.
“It’s the only public pool located in this part of the county,” Castillo said.
Castillo said the weather played a huge factor in attendance numbers this summer.
“We’re 100 percent dependent on the weather,” Castillo said.
Massaro, said the decline in numbers isn’t unlike other outdoor pools in Ohio.
“It was a really tough summer weather-wise,” Massaro said.
NTPRD will likely discuss hiring a full-time pool manager, something it has never had.
“We need to look at the practices that we use,” Castillo said.
In Ohio, pools typically open on Memorial Day weekend and close in mid-August. The pool’s lifeguards, typically high school or college students, go back to school around that time.
“We lose all of our staffing,” Castillo said. “We have to have a minimum of 18 lifeguards just to open.”
The organization has tried to stay open later in the past, but once school starts and other activities begin, like fall sports, attendance drops dramatically, Massaro said.
“The swimming pool just isn’t their focus,” Massaro said.
Recent weather has included higher-than-normal temperatures. On Tuesday, highs reached into the 90s and heat indeces neared 100, forcing some Miami Valley schools to dismiss early. According to Storm Center 7 Chief Meteorologist Jamie Simpson, Monday’s high temperature of 93 was the second hottest day of the year.
“To know the pool is sitting there is awful, but all our staff is gone,” Castillo said. “We hate to see that happen, but we have absolutely no control over it.”
Earlier this summer, unusually low temperatures and rainy weather forced the pool to close during prime hours, especially in early August.
Last year, Splash Zone did nearly $20,000 in business on the three-day opening weekend. This year, the aquatics center had barely 30 visitors that weekend and was closed on Memorial Day because of inclement weather.
The NTPRD’s 10-year, $17 million capital campaign led to the construction of the new pool. The campaign consisted of a blend of private donations and taxpayer dollars, including a now-expired one-year, half-percent sales tax. The last phase of the project, the NTPRD Chiller ice arena, is expected to open this fall.
In 2007, the $5 million pool replaced the former Springfield Family Waterworks, 715 N. Bechtle Ave.
This year, the pool offered fitness classes in the morning and evenings. Castillo said the hours had to be expanded because of the popularity, but “when it’s cold or cloudy, people aren’t thinking of the pool as an activity they want to do.”
Family events — such as Dog Days, Family Boat Races and Hawaiian Luau — brought large attendance numbers this summer, Castillo said.
“We want to do more to entice families to come check us out,” Castillo said.
Splash Zone attendance numbers
The Springfield News-Sun is committed to in-depth coverage about parks and recreation spending, including stories this year on city-owned golf course operations.