VFW Aquatic facility’s first season a success
By Lee Reinsch
DE PERE – The first full season of the VFW Aquatic Facility on the city’s west side has been deemed a success – surpassing attendance records for residents and non-resident attendees alike.
Marty Kosobucki, director of Parks, Recreation and Forestry, said the VFW pool, which opened in June 2021 and features a zero-depth entry pool, two body slides, kids splash area and diving boards, drew 15,266 daily users.
Of that, 8,026 were city residents and 7,240 were non-resident users.
Daily users brought in $95,102.97 in revenue.
In comparison, daily users at Legion Park pool across town totaled 4,155 and brought in $20,234.30.
Approximately 1,000 people purchased memberships – individual, family, senior and lap swim passes – to one or both pools, including 702 residents and 269 nonresidents, for a total of $99,482 in membership revenues.
Kosobucki said staff plans to also look into implementing a point-of-sale system to speed up queues and keep track of guests.
The VFW pool was closed in 2019 for repairs and also in 2020 due to the pandemic.
The last full season the VFW pool was open was in 2018.
That summer, Kosobucki said the facility drew 11,656 daily users, and the parks department sold 629 membership passes to one or both pools.
Revenue for the two pools in 2021 totaled $278,262, but expenses were around $34,000 more than expected – at $391,262.
Kosobucki said a chunk of that could be attributed to the increased use of utilities, which was magnified by ongoing trouble with the pool’s mechanical system.
“It was not running right all season,” he said. “We had constant battles with our mechanicals, and when it runs that much, it’s using a lot more energy.”
Kosobucki said staff believe they found the cause toward the end of the season, but won’t know for sure until they get the pool up and running again this summer.
At the Board of Park Commissioners meeting Feb. 17, Commissioner Melissa Thiel Collar asked whether public pools generally break even.
Kosobucki said he knew of none in the state that did.
“They’re all subsidized,” he said. “Pools are a loss leader, even for a YMCA.”
Kosobucki said he would keep commissioners apprised of the situation going forward.
He said because of an aggressive wage scale for seasonal employees adopted by the city, the parks department has 80 to 90% of the lifeguards it needs for next summer’s pool needs.
Kosobucki said lifeguard positions have been difficult to fill in recent years due to other activities students are involved with.