At this time of year, the Cañon City Area Recreation and Park District would normally be gearing up for a busy summer of activities and programs for people of all ages. This however is a year like no other with COVID-19 concerns. Like the rest of the community, we have been forced to make changes. Unfortunately, because of these concerns, the Recreation District staff made the recommendation to the Board of Directors at the May 12th board meeting to close the R.C. Icabone Swimming Pool for the 2020 season. Please keep in the mind the pool is not and never has been 100% sustainable. Like many other communities, it is viewed as a service and is subsidized by the government agency who runs it.
The closure of the pool was not a decision taken lightly and there were several factors taken into consideration. We consulted aquatics experts within the Colorado Parks and Recreation Association, the American Red Cross, local department of health officials, and other swimming pool operators to get as much information as possible. In a best-case scenario we would not be able to open the pool until the last week of June, based on the variance request submitted by Fremont County to the State of Colorado. There is no guarantee we could open at that time depending on future social distancing requirements. This would drastically shorten our season and create issues with generating revenue.
Then we come to programming options for the pool, which is our main driver of revenue. In speaking with experts, open swim would most likely not be allowed. If it were, we would have to significantly reduce the number of people in the pool. This also means private party rentals would not be possible due to social distancing guidelines. The District would be able to offer lap swim, but only one person, per lane which means no more than six people at a time. Swim lessons could be held but based on our conversations with the American Red Cross we are looking at a significant reduction in the number of participants at less than 22% of normal capacity. Additionally, a parent would have to be in the pool with the child, while the instructor is on the pool deck. Also, the District partners with local gyms to offer workout times, and that number of participants would be reduced. With no open swim, we would not have any concessions revenue. When you combine all of these different issues the District is looking at a significant reduction in programming revenue.
Many of the expenses on the other hand will remain the same. Yes, there would be a reduction in staff without open swim and reduced swim lessons. Yet the existing staff savings will be offset in part by needing additional staff for cleaning and sanitizing. The mechanical systems would have to operate at normal levels, including water, heating, filtration, chemical treatment, water circulation, and sewer. These expenses would not change regardless of attendance. Simply put the expenses would reduce slightly, but the revenues will absolutely not come close to needed levels.
The Recreation District does subsidize the pool on an annual basis, but with the current situation that amount could be easily more than $50,000 for a shortened season. The funds are simply not there at this time. When you add in the fact we can’t guarantee the pool will even be allowed to open, District staff felt the best option was to not open the pool in 2020. This was not a decision we took lightly.
This decision will only impact the 2020 season. The plan is to open in 2021. This does not change the fact that the R.C. Icabone Swimming Pool is on its last leg. After meeting with engineers and consultants, the pool needs to be replaced and not repaired. The cost of that will be in the millions of dollars. The issues of this aging facility are not going away, and we still must come together as a community to determine how we want to solve this problem.