Some kids on the Westside are going to be looking for a new place to cool down when the weather heats up this summer.
Glenwood Pool, located at 1925 Broad St., will not be opening its doors to swimmers this year.
Due to current budget restraints within the city of Columbus, cuts have been made throughout most departments, totaling nearly $2.5 million in reductions from 2007. That includes the Columbus Department of Recreation and Parks.
In order to deal with their shrinking funds, Recreation and Parks have found ways to shrink their spending.
Eight positions within the department have been eliminated through attrition, meaning they are positions that are open and will not be filled. Also, part-time hours have been reduced.
The big reduction, however, will come when three Columbus pools shut down over the summer months – Glenwood, Fairwood and the Columbus Swim Center. The Columbus Swim Center, which is an indoor pool, will close only through the summer season, when outdoor pools are open, and will reopen in the fall.
In an effort to ease restraints put on those who will be forced to find a new pool to frequent, the 50 cent admission fee will be waived at all city pools throughout the entire season.
“Last year, we brought in a total of $22,000 from kids dropping quarters into the turnstyles as they walked in,” said Alan McKnight, director of the Columbus Recreation and Parks department at the April 1 meeting of the Greater Hilltop Area Commision.
He added that the city paid an average of $60,000 per pool to keep it open in 2007. These costs come mostly from staffing the pool and keeping it full of water.
By keeping three pools closed in 2008, the department will save an estimated $164,000, said McKnight.
The pools to close were determined by participation rates, as well as how many other pools are in the area.
The closest pool to Glenwood is Dodge Pool, located at 545 Sullivant Ave.
According to McKnight, Dodge is one of the city’s highest performing pools.
“These were tough decisions. It’s not something any of us wanted to do,” said McKnight.
He added that the closures are not expected to be permanent.
“We’re not taking the pools out. We’re not doing anything to keep them from opening next year,” he said.
“The only way to keep our pools and our businesses here is to make sure that we participate and we give them business,” said GHAC Chairperson Chuck Patterson.
McKnight said that pools, with their short seasons, heavy financial demands, and low entrance fees, are seldom profitable.
“None of our pools make money,” he said. “The ones that seem to make it are the ones in suburban neighborhoods that charge for season memberships. I don’t think that would be successsfull in most neighborhoods in our city.”
A different kind of fun in the sun
Last year was the first year for a “spray ground” in Columbus, with one installed on the city’s east side.
Spray grounds, according to McKnight, are concrete slabs outfitted with playground equipment and apparatuses for spraying and dumping water.
Since these facilities have no standing water, no lifeguards are required, making them significantly cheaper to operate.
There are no official numbers for how many children attended the spray ground, “but it was always busy,” said McKnight.
“We’ll never go just spray grounds,” he said, adding that Columbus is considering a mixture of both spray grounds and pools.
“I am just wondering why the city takes things away that really matter to people,” asked Commissioner David Horn.
“It just seems to me that the city should pay more atttention to the things that really matter, like swimming pools and keeping the grass mowed, instead of looking at things like developments and flowers, because $170,000, in the grand scheme of things, really isn’t that much,” he added.
“Mayor Coleman has some challenges and I think he does a great job,” responded McKnight.
“For every issue that the city deals with, there’s a constituent out there saying ‘This is more important that that,’” he said.