The Cost of Splashy City-Owned Pools

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AP
    Mini-water parks are all the rage, but do they pay off for cities that build them?

    Mini-waterparks are all the rage in cities across the Metroplex, but do they pay off for cities that build them?

    There was a time when public swimming pools had no frills; they were L-shaped with a shallow and deep end and a diving board.

    Mini-Waterparks Replace Public Pools

    [DFW] Mini-Waterparks Replace Public Pools
    Multimillion-dollar mini-waterparks are replacing old public pools, and cities can't build them fast enough. (Published Thursday, Jun 3, 2010)

    But not anymore.

    "The typical box pool environment is not an environment that they're attracted to," said Lemuel Randolph, director of McKinney's Parks and Open Spaces Department. "They're looking for higher adventure activity."

    McKinney is hoping to keep up with the Jones -- neighboring cities such as Frisco, Plano and Allen that have built multimillion dollar mini-waterparks.

    The facilities rival larger commercial waterparks. Lewisville has built two.

    "It's like a mini Wet  'n Wild,” said Lewisville resident Robert Buttz, who was visiting the Sun Valley Aquatic Center.

    Sun Valley features shaded picnic areas for adults, interactive water features and a "lazy river."

    Sales taxes paid for Sun Valley's $4 million cost. The facility generates fees for daily use, party rentals and swim meets, but, like most of the mini-waterparks, it loses money.

    "This is run for the public," said Hillary Boen, aquatics supervisor for Lewisville. "We do recover about 60 to 70 percent of our operating costs, but we do not even break even."

    Cities choose to build the waterparks because citizens want them. The facilities add to the overall quality of life and provide summer "staycations" in a tough economy.

    While every city government would like to see the parks generate revenue, swimming season is only four months long, and cities keep fees reasonable so residents can enjoy the facilities.

    The fees for a "day pass" at a city mini-water \park can range from free to $8 for adults. Many commercial waterparks charge double the highest average fee for the same day of splashing around.

    “I think it's great, even if they take a little bit of a loss," Buttz said. “I don't think it's that much of a tax on the city.”

    McKinney is still debating what kinds of facilities to build. Citizens have complained about not having a suitable pool for competitive swimmers, and young parents want a mini-water \park.

    “We're hearing from the community that they want these facilities just like our neighbors have,” Randolph said.

    The city is already building splash-zones, which are not pools, but allow kids to get wet and cool off in the summer heat without requiring a lot of maintenance or onsite staff.