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Number of pool-goers takes a dip

An unusually cool summer has sunk attendance at swimming sites in and around town.
Tuesday, August 17, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 5:00 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

It was a short day at Pirates’ Landing for the Sillyman family on Monday.

“We’re getting ready to go; the kids were freezing in the water,” Mindy Sillyman said as she and her husband, Bryce, corralled their two kids toward the exit.

Such was the sentiment for many Columbia swimmers this summer as attendance numbers belly flopped at outdoor pools across the area. Overall attendance is down about 30 percent at the city’s four outdoor pools, said Mike Hood, director of Columbia Parks and Recreation.

Temperatures Monday afternoon peaked in the mid-80s, but the lifeguards still nearly outnumbered the swimmers at Pirates’ Landing.

“It’s usually a lot more crowded,” Sillyman said. “This is only a fourth of the people that would usually be here.”

The cool weather was one reason swimmers stayed away from the outdoor pools this year, said Chris Seris, recreation specialist for aquatics. With temperatures barely climbing into the 70s, city officials closed all the outdoor pools the past Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

“That is pretty rare,” Seris said. “Usually you see that in June, but not July and August.”

Hood said expanded summer school offerings also cut down on swimmers.

“We think that both items were a factor,” Hood said. “We just have no way of telling how much of it was the weather and how much of it was the summer school program.”

A DIP AT THE POOLS

Several of Columbia’s public pools have had significantly fewer visitors this summer compared with last summer. Total number of patrons through Aug. 8:

This summerLast summer
Douglass Family Aquatic Center2,7465,816
Lake of the Woods Pool3,8025,351
Oakland Family Aquatic Center18,32524,595
Pirates’ Landing with Little Mates Cove15,71520,447

The Douglass Family Aquatic Center and the Lake of the Woods Pool both closed for the season Sunday. Attendance numbers at the Douglass Family Aquatic Center were less than half of last year’s attendance. There were 1,500 fewer swimmers at Lake of the Woods this year, according to statistics released by Seris.

Similarly, attendance at Pirates’ Landing has decreased by 4,700, and the Oakland Family Aquatic Center attendance is down by 6,300 from last year. Both of these pools and Stephens Lake remain open.

There were 10 swimmers at Stephens Lake on Monday afternoon.

Hood said reduced revenues from entrance fees are a concern for the city. To save money on cool days, pool managers send home unnecessary lifeguards. In extreme cases, like last week, city officials can opt to completely close the outdoor pools.

“It’s always a concern, our pools are a revenue source for us,” Hood said. “We’ll have to wait until the end of the season to see how our bottom line fares.”


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