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May 25, 2014 09:55 PM

Pool Prosperity

Yankton, SD

A sure sign of summer in Sioux Falls is the sound of families soaking up the sun and diving into an aquatic adventure. However, it's an adventure that doesn't last long.

"Typically our pools are open about three months out of the year, but more than likely, it's about an average of 80 days a season," Parks and Recreation director Don Kearney said.

To have all the pools running at peak performance, the City hires about 150 staff members to spread out at each of their eight locations.

"The annual operating costs for the outdoor facilities is about $1 million a year. We bring in about $430,000-$440,000 a year in annual revenue realizing that we also provide about 40% of our passes that we issue are either free or reduced for those that are income qualified," Kearney said.

It's entertainment that is put on each summer at a financial loss, but Kearney says it's done to improve quality of life.

The landscape of the city's pools is about to change with the addition of the indoor aquatic center at Spellerberg Park projected to open in 2016. It would be open for the entire calendar year.

"We are anticipating that the facility will cost about 700-thousand dollars to operate that over the 12-month season," Kearney said.

The operation costs of both indoor and outdoor pools may be hard to swallow at first glance, but there is one city that is setting a positive example on how to operate both. Yankton has had an indoor and outdoor pool since 1994. The outdoor pool, like some in Sioux Falls, has had a lengthy lifespan.

"We have an outdoor pools facility, which was actually built in 1947, so it's a lot older and a lot more maintenance and time goes into keeping that operational than obviously this newer facility," Yankton Parks and Recreation director Todd Larson said.

Another similarity between Sioux Falls and Yankton; the outdoor pool runs at a loss.

"We're subsidizing our outdoor pool and it would take quite a bit of change in attendance to get to a break-even point unless you're going to really raise fees," Larson said.

Larson says one of the first big challenges in making both facilities work is making sure there are enough people *to work.

"The biggest factor you're going to find expense-wise outdoor and indoor pool is your staffing. That just goes back to so many variables," Larson said.

Kearney says that shouldn't be a problem. There are plenty of resources to find people to join the staff in Sioux Falls.

"The other nice thing about it is that we have our local colleges and universities in the area that will also be convenient, especially where they're located at USF and Augie, to be able to help us staff that facility as well," Kearney said.

From there, Larson is able to speak positively on how an indoor facility has benefited the community. By being open for an entire year, so many different activities can be held. Each one of those is a way to bring in revenue.

"We do our own lifeguard training classes, our own WSI training classes. Since we have the indoor pool, we can do those year-round. We can do little kids swimming lessons," Larson said.

The list goes on.

"Fitness programs you would come up with, you can generate revenue off of besides your open swims, and again, if you have swim teams, are they going to use the facility for free? Will they sign a contract to use the facility? Swim meets?" Larson said.

The new pool at Spellerberg has been touted as an aquatic center for the entire region, and Yankton's indoor pool provides an example in support of that statement.

"They may live in Nebraska, Scotland, Freeman, Tyndall, Tabor, Gayville, Meckling, Elk Point, whatever the case may be. We do have members that utilize our facility," Larson said.

While soaked in controversy, the future indoor pool in Sioux Falls has a revenue-building model to follow. Larson says that it's a spot that he couldn't see Yankton doing without.

"It's great for quality of life in a community whether it's a smaller community like Yankton or a bigger community like Sioux Falls," Larson said. "Obviously, Sioux Falls has that size, if Yankton can do it at 15,000 people. Yeah, an indoor pool is a great asset to have," Larson said.

One other potential source of financial support for the new pool at Spellerberg Park is through sponsorship opportunities, a similar system to how the City has sold sponsorships for the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center.

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