By next summer, the line into Freedom Springs Greenwood Aquatics Park might not be so long and shaded areas around the pool so hard to find.
Freedom Springs likely will be just as popular, crowded and busy as it was this summer, but Greenwood wants to do some projects before then to make it better.
“We need to get better at the initial experience of Freedom Springs,” Greenwood Parks Director Rob Taggart said. “The lines to get into the facility, concessions — the overall hospitality and customer experience — we need to work on that.”
The parks department has about $400,000 left from the bond used to build the facility that it can put toward new features and upgrades around the facility and could spend some of the revenue made from its first season.
Some of the ideas include improvements to the entrance and exit at the park to make more room for people going in and out, adding more amenities, such as large umbrellas along the side of the pool and a sound system throughout the park that could be used to play music and make announcements, Taggart said.
In the future, the city is considering adding a wave pool with money collected in a new tax-increment financing district the city wants to create along State Road 135. That project, which could cost as much as $4 million, is years away but is a definite possibility, Taggart said.
What projects will be done will be decided based on how much money is available and the costs, Taggart said.
One project that is in the works is adding another shelter house with picnic tables, where visitors can eat and sit in the shade and that can be rented for parties. The parks department began working on designs for the new shelter shortly after the aquatic center closed for the summer.
This week, the park board approved spending $35,000 on the shelter, which will be built on the sand pit that was used as an area for kids to play in a beach setting. Taggart said construction could begin by the end of the month.
Another key issue identified after this summer is the layout of the entrance and exit into the pool. Most of the complaints the city received were about problems with getting into and out of the facility quickly and conveniently. Taggart said some visitors reported waiting in line to get in for as long as 20 minutes.
He said officials are looking into adding an exit area away from the entrance to avoid congestion at the front gates, which is currently the only entrance and exit at the park.
Visitors and city officials also reported that the parking lot was filling up and overflowing onto Stop 18 Road, where cars were parked on some of the busiest days. Taggart said the parks department isn’t going to look into additional parking for the facility’s second season because the current parking lot is designed to accommodate the maximum capacity of the park, which is 1,500 people.
Taggart said he has ideas for additional parking, but nothing is in the works yet.
Along with the $400,000 remaining from when the aquatic park was built, the city made money that can go toward additions to the facility, such as additional cabanas, which would provide more shaded areas for visitors — a frequent request. Freedom Springs took in nearly $730,000 in admissions, concessions and season pass sales during its first summer and cost $470,000 to run.
Officials hope future summers will bring in even more money that could be used for upgrades or additions to the facility or new equipment, such as lounge chairs or more cabanas.
Freedom Springs’ success in 2015 was hardly the park’s full potential, Taggart said. The center didn’t have as many birthday parties and rentals as officials would have liked, he said. The city also didn’t get any sponsors for multiple advertising spaces within the park, which officials had estimated could bring in about $200,000 per year.
Looking at what the park lacked and what could be added is important, even though the first year was considered successful, Taggart said.
“The park got a really big hit of initial buzz, and we take that into consideration to not get too excited,” Taggart said. “We’re looking at what amenities would be good for the park, but we also look at what the facility is lacking and what it needs.”
Here is a look at how much Freedom Springs Greenwood Aquatics Park earned and cost this year:
Total revenue: $729,558
Season Passes: $113,526
Total expenses: $470,654
Management fees: $119,500