SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Summer vacation has already begun for many kids in KELOLAND, but this weekend it’s another big sign of summer: Saturday is opening day at Wild Water West.
But with just a few days to go until the start of the year, the waterpark is still searching for more lifeguards and workers.
“I like life guarding in general, I like the interactions with customers and guests,” Wild Water West lifeguard Karlye Maras said.
This is the third year Maras is spending her summer as a lifeguard at her favorite place.
“Most of what I like about lifeguarding at Wild Water West is the community you build,” Maras said.
But this year, that community is starting out smaller than usual.
“We’re probably 20 or so lifeguards short of where we want to be. Just to have the comfortability of having days off and not stressing people out,” Wild Water West lead lifeguard Colter Quinn said.
Lead Lifeguard, Colter Quinn, knows a main part of the problem is the growing competition for workers all over town.
“Especially with competitive pay, you can go somewhere and sit in air conditioning for the same amount of money and may not have to do as much work,” Quinn said.
It’s why Wild Water West has dramatically increased wages for lifeguards this summer.
“When I started here, I was making $11.50 an hour, and this year I’ll be making 16.50,” Maras said. “We have a starting salary of $16 an hour and an additional 25 cents for each year you’ve worked here.”
Along with doing more work to try and find more lifeguards, they’re also busy with more work from all of last week’s storms and the damage they brought to the park.
“We had just filled our pools the day of the storm, the dust came in and coated our pools,” Quinn said. “We’re still cleaning pools, still fixing umbrellas, still fixing things that got toppled over, trash cans took a huge beating.”
They’re confident they’ll be ready to go for opening day this weekend with the full park open as planned, but as the summer heat intensifies, a continued lifeguard shortage could mean the closure of some attractions.
“If we don’t have the amount we want to, those lifeguards are going to get exhausted,” Quinn said.
Wild Water West is still hiring and training lifeguards now; the water park covers all of the cost of training and uniforms to help anyone get started.