Eds Note: Craig’s previous post was on snow removal, now he takes on the public pools. That’s Wausau weather for you, if you don’t like it, wait a minute.
By Craig Stahl
The Wausau Daily Herald’s opinion page in yesterday’s paper states that Wausau’s three public pools are too small, outdated, and inefficient. It goes on to say that Weston’s aquatic center is more modern, but still only makes a modest profit each year. I am not in possession of the city’s balance sheets so I cannot comment on how profitable these public pools are, but I do have a general question regarding outdoor water facilities in Northern Wisconsin: Why do we build so many outdoor swimming facilities in such a mild climate?
Considering that temperatures during the summer usually seem to hover around the 80s during the summer in Northern Wisconsin (occasionally breaking into the 90s for a few weeks), a partly cloudy day with some breezy winds can be all it takes for somebody to decide it’s a bit too chilly to head down to the pool. I like to take my kids to the pool, but I can usually only take them on the weekends. There have been times where I have taken my kids to the splash pad at Marathon Park (which is a great public park for small children by the way), but they often complain that they are too cold (due to temperature, breeze, shade, etc.) and we end up leaving after only being there a few minutes. The kids really enjoy places like the Lodge at Cedar Creek, but sometimes there are so many people there that you cannot get in, not to mention that it is a lot more expensive to take your children there than a public pool or splash pad.
So, when it comes down to the economics of building public pools, how do we make them more profitable? How do we convince people to come and use our public pools when so many other things compete for their time during the 3 months of summer (like canoeing, hiking, biking, etc.)? What if the city enclosed a pool or two (possibly at the expense of shutting one down if necessary) to make the pools economically viable year-round? Obviously, an enclosed building adds considerably to the operations expense (not to mention the need for evening lifeguards during the school year, heat, etc.), but perhaps the increased availability could offset the operating expenses.
Chances are the city has already looked at this option in the past and decided against it, but maybe it could be something as simple as putting up a wind break around the pools. Is there a way we could use a removable roof of some sort to allow the pool to be open air during the hotter days of the summer – and then close the roof thereby allowing operation for a few more months out of the year?
Or should we do as the Herald suggests and shut down all the public pools and rely on the lake?