SIDNEY — The future of the Sidney Water Park (SWP) and its concession stand were discussed Monday evening during Sidney City Council’s workshop session.
Parks and Recreation Director Duane Gaier presented council Monday with five options for SWP’s improvements that are set for 2020. He also presented four options for the concession stand’s future, which council has been contemplating over the last year.
Gaier initially led the discussions of the two topics focused upon the pool’s concession stand. The expectation was for the concession stand to be self-supporting by the end of 2016; this has not happened.
He reminded council the city took control of the stand’s operations in 2015 with a cash advance from the general fund of $36,000. Last year was the first year the stand made money, $20.87, since the city took over operations. However, with the annual administrative charges averaging about $4,000 per season, the concession stand’s fund at the end of last season has dwindled down to an end cash balance of $3,290.87.
“Our opinion in the parks, we can’t make that money up. We just can’t get there. By the time we start marking up margins to cover that, our sales will drop down,” Gaier said.
During the fall of 2017, Gaier surveyed 11 area communities and presented his findings to council last year on the seven that responded in an effort to begin making SWP’s concession stand profitable. After the end of the 2018 season, council decided to revisit the subject at the beginning of 2019 for this summer’s operations.
He said the 2019 operating cost can be reduced by switching the concession staff during the busy times of the pool’s no swim breaks with SWP’s register counter employees, and by eliminating one part time concessions employee. He estimated the savings to be roughly $1,600 from losing the part time seasonal wages and benefits from 2018.
Gaier then presented council with four options for consideration, and they were:
• Continue operating the concession with proposed changes, allowing SWP users to bring in their own food and drink and absorb the concessions administrative fees;
• Continue operating the concession, do not allow carry in food and drink, and absorb the concessions administrative fees;
• Close the concession and sell bottled water and limited packaged food (space restriction) from the register counter and continue carry in;
• Close the concession and continue carry in.
Some brief discussion ensued about possibly eliminating the concession stand and bringing in vending machines. Several council members said it would probably cost more than it would be worth based on vandalism to the machines. Gaier confirmed that every vendor he spoke with declined to put their machines at SWP due to vandalism.
Council member Ed Hamker spoke in favor of letting the stand remain open for another season. He said he would “hate to see it close” and felt it was headed in the “right direction” financially. Council member Steve Wagner agreed.
The consensus of council was to go with Gaier’s first option to continue to operate the concession with the proposed changes, allowing SWP users to bring in their own food and drink and absorb the concessions administrative fees.
The other topic regarding the SWP was for the rehabilitation of the large swimming pool in which $390,000 was budgeted for 2020. After estimates came in last year, the actual cost was updated to be $447,268. These improvements include the following:
• New concrete deck;
• New filtration, including required plumbing and valves;
• Chemical feeders;
• Auto fill controller;
• ADA handicap lift;
• New 1-meter diving stands;
• Remove 3-meter board and replace with a drop slide.
Other options presented including replacing the large pool with a large splash pad and replacing decks and filter, chemical monitoring and chemical feed upgraded; eliminating half of the large pool body with a splash pad and necessary accompanying equipment; replacing baby pool with a splash pad and repairing the large pool and decks; and minimal necessary repairs to large pool, decks and replacing new boards and a slide. Some options would reduce the amount of life guards needed from 16 to 14 or down to 10, other options kept the number of guards at 16. The options’ costs ranged from $270,000 to $1.6 million.
All council members expressed a desire to keep the pool open for the community.
Some discussion ensued about replacing the baby pool with a splash pad. Vice Mayor Mardie Milligan asked about the possibly having a splash pad fenced off so that it would be accessible when the large pool was closed.
Mayor Mike Barhorst said it would be nice to have a splash pad, but perhaps in a different section of town. Gaier cautioned, however, that placing a splash pad elsewhere would likely draw people away from the pool.
Barhorst said he has noticed in other communities that mostly only young children age 6 to about 12 use splash pads. He also said he felt most people that bring their babies to the pool would probably not want to share an area where teenagers would be running nearby (on a splash pad).
“If we do away with our pool, I’m talking about teenage kids, there is nothing else for them, really,” Hamaker said. “I know the big pool is an expense, but I think we need to keep it. But I do agree with Mike, I think there is a place for a splash pad around town in one of the parks for a splash pad.”
“I agree with Ed. One of the criticisms that we have is that there is limited amount of things for teenagers to do, and I think if you take one more away, it may be far more expensive with the mischief they get into,” Barhorst said.
Council member Joe Ratermann said he didn’t support the options to rehabilitate the SWP without a splash pad, nor could he support an option that would not allow for citizens to be able to get swim lessons. He felt the splash pad would be a great draw.
Council member Darryl Thurber said he agreed with any option that would not do away with the large pool, splash pad included or not.
City Manager Mark Cundiff told council that members have about six months to “digest” the information before a decision needed to be made before the 2020 budget was formulated.
Members were in agreement that no one wished to close the pool, but the topic will be revisited and a final decision will be made about improvements at a future meeting.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.