Spokane Valley’s spiffed-up swimming pools attracted more users and generated more revenue this summer than last despite a shorter season.
Snow makeup days kept schools in session longer this summer and shaved about two weeks off the pool season. Even so, pool attendance increased by more than 9,000 visits, and revenue was up more than $10,000.
“The new features we put in this year seem to have generated more excitement and more attendance,” Parks Director Mike Stone said. “All of the pools operated smoothly, and the new features all performed very well.”
Except for thunderstorms that closed pools at least temporarily for five to 10 days, there were no “hiccups,” Stone said. “We had, in essence, no problems this year.”
As a result, he anticipates no major changes next summer.
Much of the increased use was at the Park Road pool, where a 27-foot-tall water slide was installed. Pool visits doubled from last summer.
There were 9,071 visits this summer, compared with 4,570 last summer – an increase of 4,501.
“That would suggest to us that the slide was a pretty strong attraction,” Stone said.
But use also increased substantially at Valley Mission Pool. The pool logged 3,001 more visitors during open-swim sessions, from 7,369 to 10,373.
As part of the $2.75 million project that gave the Park Road Pool its slide, Valley Mission Pool got a “zero-depth” wading pool that slopes down like a beach. The rest of Valley Mission Park received a facelift, including a new picnic shelter, in a separate project that cost $156,173.
Stone said the smallest increase in use was at the Terrace View Pool, where a new “lazy river” attraction was installed. However, Terrace View is by far the city’s most popular pool.
“It didn’t have as much room to grow as the other two did,” Stone said.
Terrace View’s visits were up 1,330, from 12,342 to 13,672, but those end-of-August numbers don’t reflect the week that Terrace View remained open this month. City officials extended Terrace View’s season through Labor Day while other pools closed Aug. 16.
Open-swim fees remained $1 a person this summer, and higher attendance accounted for most of the revenue increase, Stone said.
There were some fee hikes for swimming lessons and the city’s swim-team program. Stone said swim-team revenue rose $4,308 at Terrace View and $252 at Valley Mission, and fell $3,459 at Park Road.
A new policy to spread out pool use by day cares and other large groups proved successful, Stone said. In an effort to minimize conflicts with other users, big groups were asked to schedule their visits and tell how many children they would bring.
“We were experiencing a lot of days in recent years when we were immediately at capacity and had to start turning people away,” Stone said.
He said only one complaint was received this year from a family that was turned away.
The group-scheduling requirement “turned out to be a win-win,” he said. “We weren’t quite sure that the larger users would like that.”
Large groups seemed to like the idea of arranging visits at less-busy times and less-used pools, Stone said.
In another pool development, Spokane Valley began seeking requests Friday for proposals to operate the municipal aquatics program. The city’s contract with the Spokane Valley YMCA for pool operation and maintenance expires at the end of the year, and Stone hopes to have a new agreement ready for City Council approval in early October.
Proposals are due by 5 p.m. Sept. 25.
Stone said the new contract probably will run at least five years, with annual renewals.
Unlike a new contract for park maintenance, the pool contract doesn’t have to be awarded to the lowest bidder. Rather, city officials will evaluate proposals and negotiate a deal.
While the park maintenance contract involves structural projects considered “public works,” the pool contract is exempt from state bidding requirements because it focuses on providing labor and supplies, Stone said.
The YMCA took over management of Spokane Valley’s pools in 2005.
Previously, the city had contracted with Spokane County for all park maintenance and operation, including swimming pools. But county commissioners refused to continue operating the pools after the City Council awarded the rest of the contract to Senske Lawn and Tree Care.
Only the YMCA expressed interest in the pool contract, and it offered a price that city officials said was about $8,000 less than the city thought it would have to pay the county.
Stone said the YMCA contract cost the city $232,179 last year, including salaries and supplies.
“I think we’re getting a very good deal for the citizens,” he said.