Greenwood’s new aquatic center made enough money to cover the costs of staffing, concessions and utilities and has another $260,000 to invest in future projects and upgrades to the facility.
In its first summer, Freedom Springs Greenwood Aquatics Park took in nearly $730,000 in admissions, concessions and season pass sales. It cost $470,000 to run the facility this summer, including the costs of concessions, wages, utilities, insurance, marketing and management fees.
That means the city made money off the new center that can go toward additions to the facility, such as more cabanas or shelter houses. It also beat projections that the pool would lose $200,000 per year.
When considering how often the pool had to close due to rain this year, officials expect 2016 to be an even better year.
“We had terrible weather, and this summer exceeded my expectations,” Greenwood Parks Director Rob Taggart said. “We can absolutely do better than this year with better weather. We can do bigger and better next year.”
Rainy days mean lost money for pools. At Freedom Springs, rain closed the aquatic center on 15 days, meaning a loss of almost $4,300 per day in admissions alone — totaling about $65,000. Franklin’s Family Aquatic Center shut its gates eight days this season, losing almost $1,000 a day in admissions.
But in both communities, officials looked for other ways to bring in money to make up for those lost days, including longer hours and new events.
In Franklin, parks department staff looked for options to bring in more money after a 45-day stretch of rain between June and July. Their idea: dive-in movies, with one night bringing in 930 people. Admission was free, but concessions were open. The park beat their 2014 concession sales this year, even with lower attendance, Franklin Parks Director Chip Orner said.
At the end of the summer, Franklin almost matched its most successful season. The pool brought in almost $260,000 this season, falling just $23,000 short of its all-time high. Running the facility is expected to cost nearly $220,000, Orner said.
“We’ll definitely bring back dive-in movies,” he said. “And we’re planning on more events like that to attract more people.”
At Freedom Springs in Greenwood, officials extended evening hours and added more inner tubes and exercise programs at the request of swimmers.
The new aquatic center was more successful than expected. Before the pool was built, pool engineering firm Counsilman-Hunsaker of St. Louis studied Greenwood’s current plans for the center and told the city that expenses for staff, chlorine and maintenance would cost about $200,000 more per year than what the pool would bring in from daily passes, memberships and pool rentals for parties.
“I didn’t trust the projections. I never doubted we would make money,” Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers said. “We built what the community wanted and had the community’s support and came out ahead. With less rain and more sun, we would have been even more successful, so I’m already looking forward to next summer.”
The city also made some tweaks to bring in more swimmers and money, including adding water aerobics programs, such as water Zumba, and opening for evening hours earlier in the summer than planned. The twilight hours were supposed to begin in August and only on Thursdays. But the park moved those hours up to June and added the same evening hours on Tuesdays, Taggart said.
With the center opening for the first time, staff also made some changes as the summer progressed to meet what customers wanted. For example, they realized early on that the pool needed more inner tubes and that its front gates weren’t prepared for the number of guests who visited the park each day.
The city plans to add a second admissions gate to move the lines of people into the facility more quickly, Taggart said. During the summer, lines would start backing up into the parking lot, and the only way into the facility is the same way out.
The parks department also discussed adding a gate specifically for people exiting the pool to lessen the amount of traffic at the admissions gate.
Based on the demand for more places to sit in the shade, officials are considering putting in a shelter house where the sand pit sits, using leftover money from the bond used to build the facility, Taggart said. The bond had almost $2 million left after Freedom Springs was built. The parks department will put roughly $700,000 from the leftover money toward renovations at the Greenwood Community Center. The remaining $1.3 million will be used to cover costs for future projects, such as the shelter house, Taggart said.
“We learned a lot. We took our hits, bumps and bruises in this process,” Taggart said. “We learned a lot about public feedback and made some changes. Hopefully, we can go into 2016 with those changes implemented and make it even better next summer.”
Here is a look at what local pools earned this summer:
Franklin — Family Aquatic Center
Total revenue: $259,512
Season Passes: $64,216
Pool rentals: $18,821
Locker rental: $218
Aquatic center rental: $27,815
Birthday parties: $3,295
Total expenses: $144,820 (through mid-September)
Greenwood — Freedom Springs
Total revenue: $729,558
Season Passes: $113,526
Total expenses: $470,654
Management fees: $119,500