It’s sink-or-swim time for city aquatic center revenues

Friday, September 7, 2018
While it can still attract large crowds to Robe-Ann Park in the summer months, the Greencastle Aquatic Center faces serious budgetary concerns.
Banner Graphic/Eric Bernsee

Faced with a tight budget on the horizon for 2019 and pool revenues that don’t even cover expenses, it’s sink-or-swim time for the Greencastle Aquatic Center.

Assistant Park Director Erin Ray, who manages the aquatic center at Robe-Ann Park, presented preliminary 2018 financial figures on the pool season Thursday night as the Greencastle Park Board began to ponder where additional revenues might come from in the future.

Despite a warm summer and what Park Director Rod Weinschenk characterized as “a good season,” gross sales at the pool this year were down more than $7,000 from 2017, Ray reported.

Gross sales at the pool this summer amounted to $55,619, including daily admission revenues of $30,780. That represents a dip from the $62,670 collected in 2017 when $34,630 came from daily admissions.

A couple other financial figures jumped out at Park Board member John Hennette, who ran the 90-minute meeting in board President Tim Trigg’s absence.

For one, the aquatic center hosted 12 more pool parties this past summer, with 34 private events taking place in 2018, compared to 22 parties in 2017. However, that only generated $100 more this year ($3,670 in 2018, as opposed to $3,570 last summer).

That can be attributed to the size of the private party. A party of up to 75 people is charged $170, while a party of 76-150 people runs $230 and 151 people and more nets a $310 fee.

People reserving the pool for private events typically respond, “That’s all?” Ray said when told of the pool rental fee.

What’s frustrating, Hennette pointed out in perusing Ray’s report, is that the park’s expenses for providing a single pool rental are $184.50, which means it loses money on every pool party of up to 75 persons.

The pool has costs tied up in providing lifeguards for the two-hour pool parties ($126 for seven), concessions ($14.50 for one attendant) and a pool manager ($44-$68).

“We’re swimming upstream,” noted Hennette, who knows firsthand the private pool party scene after hosting the largest-ever pool party this summer with 432 guests attending after invitations from his pediatric dental practice.

Oddly, the city also sold more season pool passes (228) in 2018 but collected less money this year, $18,215, as compared to $19,010 last year when 215 passes were sold.

That’s because of which passes were purchased, Weinschenk explained. More individual passes than the more costly family passes were likely purchased this season.

“We have to look at whether the aquatic center is a service (to the community) or a business,” Weinschenk said, reminding the board that in 2017 revenues at the aquatic center came within $5,000 of meeting expenses.

Mayor Bill Dory said he likes to look at the pool as a hybrid of service and business.

He said he doesn’t expect pool revenues and fees to pay off debt service on the facility or fund any major repairs. However, Dory said it’s realistic that revenues and fees at least cover the cost of guards and other personnel necessary to operate the aquatic center.

Hennette suggested the Park Board really needs to see a dollar figure for what it costs to operate the pool per day. That figure would be valuable in further revenue discussion, it was noted.

Increasing revenues other than pool rentals might be difficult, Weinschenk suggested.

“I don’t think we can charge any more than the $5 a head we have right now,” he said of the daily pool admission price. “We’d probably turn more people away then we would pick up.”

Board members Hennette, Beva Miller and Cathy Merrell quickly voiced agreement to maintaining that $5 status quo.

The park director said it would be illogical to increase the admission fee unless the park was able to add other amenities like a lazy river or second water slide to the aquatic center.

Mayor Dory also suggested the Park Board look at whether or not the city should continue offering swim lessons as public participation has been lagging in recent years.

“We have competition from other places in the county,“ he said, noting that some parents prefer to take their youngsters to an indoor facility where the water isn’t as cold in the morning and that having to hold lessons outside in cool conditions has hurt city revenues as the department has continued to staff lifeguards for its learn-to-swim efforts but has seen revenues shrink.

“Maybe we need to look at a new model,” the mayor said, suggesting the aquatic center might even partner with other groups for future swim-lesson efforts.

“We’ll be looking at lot of things,” Dory said, adding that one thing he does not see is a need to cut hours of pool operations.

In his search for additional revenue, the mayor said he also plans to contact the Greencastle Civic League, which as part of its splash park project set up an endowment for maintenance of the new facility.

The Parks and Recreation Department spent between $5,000 and $10,000 on repairs to the splash park this year, Dory said, hoping that the city might recover some of that cost from the endowment.

“We love the splash park,” the mayor assured, noting however that its creation has had an effect on overall pool revenues since splash park admission is free.

The Park Board will talk about the department’s revenue situation more in depth over the next couple of months.

The board’s next meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 4 at City Hall.

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  • The Greencastle Pool needs to hire some adults to run it for one. My biggest issue with the pool being a county resident, because yes everything that happens in Greencastle truly effects Putnam County, is that I have no idea when they are open? Why not use facebook to advertise the hours. Also they only take cash which can be burdensome. Also why is there a public swim and a family swim? Why can't it just be open hours. Also we have went several times in the last couple of summers and the pool will just be randomly closed for no reason or decided to close as we are walking in the door. My last issue with the pool is the random 15 minute however often times its more like 30 minute breaks that you get kicked out of the water for the lifeguards to have breaks. While I understand there may be some rule for this, hire more life guards or use the 4 extra ones that are too busy flirting with each other. Honestly the pool is ran like it is someone's summer hobby and is a joke, the Mayor really needs to fix this.

    -- Posted by putnamcountyperson on Sat, Sep 8, 2018, at 2:19 PM
  • putnamcountyperson. I do understand. As for the 15 min. breaks, they are 'safety breaks'. It's a time for the lifeguards to check the pool, and adults or friends to locate each other, a check-in so to speak. This is common for pools all around and has been in practice for a very long time. I do agree that there is a lot of flirting and things going on, but, again unfortunately that is also a thing that's gone on for a long time. There does need to be more adults here running the facility, maybe money issues would be better. People would feel safer and be a better run facility. I the past the 15 min. times they had fun activities to do, maybe they could bring that back, games to win something free, like a concession or free pass. Hopefully next year will be better. I've worked there before (highschool days) maybe I'll reapply and work as an adult. Lol

    -- Posted by kids03 on Sat, Sep 8, 2018, at 7:31 PM
  • The information presented here is very interesting and as a business person, somewhat perplexing. It seems to me that our parks board may have a larger concern to worry about than just pool. The pool is simple, there is just bad business management decisions happening. Parks & Recreation is a business and service and I am not sure our current parks leadership is good at either. There seems to be a lot missing in our parks beyond the pool issues. Mowing and landscaping has been horrible the past few years, the band shell, which was supposed to be done before summer is still incomplete, key features in the parks are falling into disrepair, and the excuses at meetings seem to be plentiful. Our parks should be better and there should be more programs offered. I wonder, and maybe others should too, is it time for a change at the top?

    -- Posted by PCGuy01 on Sat, Sep 8, 2018, at 10:44 PM
  • Drain the water ---- soak it in gasoline --- then torch this eye sore. I haven't been in years and would not go if they paid me. Kids pooping in it, it more like a public toilet than a public pool.

    -- Posted by BlackBarbie22 on Sat, Sep 8, 2018, at 10:58 PM
  • I agree with PCGuy01, leadership is very poor!! Like an "I DON'T CARE" attitude. Definitely due for a huge change!!

    -- Posted by Rainbow6 on Sun, Sep 9, 2018, at 2:07 PM
  • I really don't understand why Greencastle and putnam county always keep pounding there head against the wall like they are the only municipal pool in the the area. Why not ask what other area locations are doing Plainfield and Danville both have pools yes I agree it should be a hybrid, but why not ask questions and maybe some get better solutions.

    One would be get rid of concession stand, why not contract or lease that service out to out side service.

    Also agree that the rate to lease pool should at least cover the costs.

    And if we have individuals who don't know what the cost to operate the pool on a daily basis maybe it would be time to replace them with someone who would be.

    -- Posted by Richard987 on Sun, Sep 9, 2018, at 11:39 PM
  • 1) Weinschenk needs to go. This is the same issue that they were dealing with in the early 2000's when i life guarded there. If things haven't changed in 15 years they're not going to change. He doesn't know how to run a budget and doesn't appear to have any interest or ability to care. Upkeep in horrible (at the pool, park, sports park, trail, pretty much everywhere he is suppose to be taking care of).

    2) $5 admission is the same price they've charged since i was a kid in the 90's. Name ONE other thing that is the same cost from then. It's simple, raise the price to $6 or more. While you're at it raise the cost for single passes if they are cheaper than family passes. If anything pricing should usually follow the opposite trend (cheaper per person for family / more expensive for single). And why in god's green earth is there a price for pool rental that they loose money on? I would suggest raising rental rates at least 50%

    3) STAY OPEN AFTER THE START OF SCHOOL!!! Especially with school starting so much earlier these day's. You are basically loosing the whole month of August which an be one of the hottest. There is NO excuse to close this down before labor day (and if you wanted to stay open until mid september that would also be a good thing most years).

    I'm not saying that the pool needs to be turning massive profit but it needs to cover the operation costs at a bare minimum. When was the last time that happened? How long would any other city / business have put up with this?

    On a side note unless the city council's plan for a YMCA is going to fall under leadership outside of the parks department this is what we have to look forward to in a couple of years. Comical (if it weren't for the lost taxpayer dollars) mismanagement and no desire or drive to improve. It's well past time for a change at the top.

    -- Posted by hometownboy on Mon, Sep 10, 2018, at 7:59 AM
  • We must stay open during August when school starts with an evening schedule during the week and full schedule on weekends. I do worry that the YMCA will effect attendance during the summer months depending on the type of pool being built. Maybe we could also find some part time guards from DePauw for the August/September timeframes.

    -- Posted by johnn on Mon, Sep 10, 2018, at 12:24 PM
  • Another option (depending on cost) is to purchase an inflatable bubble to place over the pool (i have seen these at many locations throughout the midwest). It allows for the pool to be used year round (with only 1-2 weeks downtime to put up / remove the bubble at season changes). This would help result in year-round revenue from pool operations and would be much cheaper than building an indoor pool for the YMCA. Additionally, this may help with staffing concerns in that it would be a year round job (instead of seasonal) and could attract more people who are looking for steady work.

    -- Posted by hometownboy on Mon, Sep 10, 2018, at 12:44 PM
  • I hope the Mayor and City Council members and Park Board members read these comments and take them seriously. Our park has gone downhill with the current Park Director. Get someone who is willing to do what the people need, not just what he wants. He has gotten rid of all the great softball teams we used to have, cheaper to play and better diamonds in other towns.

    -- Posted by Rainbow6 on Mon, Sep 10, 2018, at 12:54 PM
  • I just don’t get it. How is it remotely possible that the park director can not say for certain how much it costs, on a daily basis, to operate the city pool. If he doesn’t know now, then he probably has never known. His poor stewardship of my tax dollars is enough to have the Mayor or council end his employment. The taxpayers deserve better leadership, and this includes the Mayor’s office too. He is ultimately responsible for what happens in the city. Remember this when you go to the polls for the next Mayoral election. The pool may as well shut down and never reopen if the YMCA comes to town. The Y knows how to fund and run recreational programs, and youth sports programs, and swimming programs, and adult exercise programs. Lease the pool to the Y for the cost of the debt owed on the pool and let them make the money for it.

    -- Posted by Vernie1 on Tue, Sep 11, 2018, at 1:04 PM
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