SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — This week of extreme heat has pools packed with people all over KELOLAND, but the crowding is even more noticeable in Sioux Falls where three of the city’s pools are not yet open due to staffing issues.
Even if all of the city’s pools are open, when will it be time for a new aquatic addition to Sioux Falls pools?
After last summer’s pandemic closure, people are once again piling into Sioux falls pools.
“We are seeing a lot of people using the pools, we came out of spring with cooler weather then bam we are seeing July, so yes the pools are busy,” Sioux Falls Recreation Coordinator Jean Pearson said.
“A lot of kids out here today, it’s super hot,” Sioux Falls mom Viki Jerde said.
It’s not just the heat packing Sioux Falls pools this summer, it’s also the limited number of pools open.
“We just haven’t been able to get staff to lifeguard at this time, we’re actively recruiting doing everything we can,” Pearson said.
McKennan, Kuehn and Frank Olson pools are still closed due to staffing issues.
“If you went to the pools you kind of feel like, woo they’re kind of busy, but we did not hit capacity for any of facilities, we came relatively close, we’re not at bather load capacity with one in one out,” Pearson said.
The city’s newest pools are designed to handle more people.
“When we renovate our facilities, because of the way we build them now vs how we built them 50 years ago, because of the way we design them. There’s more lawn area and green spaces and more shallow areas which allows us to have some additional capacity,” Sioux Falls Parks and Recreation Director Don Kearney said.
Kearney says the master plan for the city’s aquatic center focuses on growing and maintaining the pools the city already has.
“Our comprehensive plan really focuses on identifying Frank Olson and Kuehn Park as replacement facilities over the next 5 to 10 years.”
It’s what the city did in replacing Drake Springs in 2009, adding capacity for another roughly 150 people from the previous pool. The Midco Aquatics Center increased service even more when it replaced the former Spellerberg pool in 2016, jumping the facility’s capacity from 600 to nearly 1500 people, all year long.
“It’s a huge draw during the summertime and a lot of people don’t think about that, but it really has reduced the number of people going to our outdoor pools over the last three years,” Kearney said.
Outdoor pool attendance was down 25-percent from 2016-2019 when all eight aquatic facilities were open in Sioux Falls.
“We have capacity at our existing facilities so it’s tough to build additional ones when you have capacity at your existing facilities,” Kearney said.
The city is planning to build a second spray ground at Hayward Park in the northwest corner of Sioux Falls.
“While it’s not a pool per say, it is an aquatic feature that provides some water-based recreation for a lot of those kids and families that really are on an island so to say as it relates to getting to and from a pool,” Kearney said.
“I live on the east side, so it is a three-mile drive to get anywhere,” Jerde said.
While the city’s pools may not be at capacity, as Sioux Falls grows outward, it means the current locations are becoming less accessible for some neighborhoods.
“If they don’t have transportation where do they get to go and how do they get to recreate?” Pearson said.
Kuehn Park is currently the only city pool west of I-29 and Laurel Oak is the furthest south on 49th street, and at 27 years old, it’s still the newest addition to the lineup of city pools.
“The last new pool we built was in 1994 when we built Laurel Oak,” Kearney said.
“I think we could use another new pool,” Jerde said.
While the city focuses on replacing and repairing its current locations, city leaders are also planning to meet the need of future growth. Kearney says based on current population growth, Sioux Falls could get an additional pool in the next five to 15 years.
“Where is the greatest need in the community, is it in the outlying areas of the community? Probably so, we’re going to lean on that data to help drive those decisions as we move forward and looking at future facilities,” Pearson said.
Whenever a new facility comes, city leaders worry staffing will continue to be the biggest issue. Sioux Falls Parks and Recreation is still working to hire lifeguards to open all of city’s current facilities. Kuehn Park Pool will be opening this Saturday.