DeKALB – The DeKalb Park District will reassess Hopkins Pool staffing needs and operating hours after a 2019 season that didn’t live up to hopes. Greg Bruggeman, superintendent of recreation, said low attendance numbers partly were because of a later start of warmer temperatures and a wet season.
“The pool season is a lot like a race,” Bruggeman said, giving his pool report to the district’s board of commissioners Thursday. “If you start out slowly, you’re probably not going to have a great time. We started slow, and it showed in our numbers.”
The pool was open from May 25 to Aug. 18 and had 30,385 total visitors (more than 350 a day), Bruggeman said. He said May started slowly with only 1,500 swimmers. He said that temperatures didn’t reach above 90 degrees until June 27, compared with 2018, which had four days by mid-June a higher than 90.
The month of June also had more than 3 inches of rain, he said. Compared with 2018, pool pass sales by June 15 in 2019 dropped by 250.
Despite a high-profile stabbing and hate crime incident June 5 that occurred outside the pool that sent three teenage boys to the hospital, Bruggeman heralded pool safety as a plus for the 2019 season. Neither Bruggeman nor any other district staff or commissioner mentioned the incident in Thursday's meeting.
“Safety: We had a really good year,” Bruggeman said. “We’re working well with maintenance, making sure any issues that popped up were addressed. That was our goal, and we achieved that.”
When asked Friday whether the June incident was taken into consideration with the safety portion of the report, Bruggeman said staff are reviewing procedures.
“Anytime something like that occurs, we’re going to take a look at the overall operations and figure out ways we can try and minimize that exposure,” he said.
Bruggeman credited the pool staff with maintaining staffing levels to match the low attendance numbers and weather. He said that despite the numbers, the pool’s budget ended with a $29,078 deficit, less than the district’s budgeted deficit of $39,000.
A new state law raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour also is expected to create some hurdles for the pool budget.
“You can’t necessarily cut back staff because you need coverage,” Bruggeman said. “So the thought process is we would amend services and times we offered, so we might cut back the kiddie pool a few hours in the front or back of the day. All of that really depends on board input and taking a look at wages per hour.”
Park District Commissioner and Board President Phil Young expressed curiosity in what DeKalb residents think of the pool.
“Have you heard from the general public this year, what is their view of the pool?” Young asked. “Is it a value to them? Are they getting what they feel is good?”
Bruggeman said he hasn’t heard many complaints.
“The thing that I’ve heard most is that it’s a dated pool,” he said. “And they’ve been coming to the same facility for a long time. With that being said, I will tell you I do hear parents and children appreciative of having it.”