Colonial Park Pool Plans Approved – Staffing, Hours, Fee Structure Still Up In The Air
The plans recommended by the Parks Board for the new Colonial Park Pool have been approved by West U. City Council. Mayor Bob Kelly says he expects a “significant increase of activity” once the new facility is built, and asked city staff to look into speeding up the timeline for construction so the pool is not closed next summer.
Parks and Recreation Director Tim O’Connor told council that he is would recommend that the new facility, once opened, be open only to residents for the first year. He pointed out a situation with the Bellaire Aquatics Facility in which a Bellaire family was turned away from the pool, which was at capacity, as non-residents were swimming.
“You guys are going to get a lot of phone calls if that happens,” said O’Connor.
The new design, while much larger than the current pool, is within the same footprint and takes away no greenspace from the park. Several lap swimmers at Monday night’s special council session were still concerned about the lap lanes, which have been shortened to 60 feet. One lap swimmer, who said he has been using Colonial Park for 30 years, said that while he will have no problem using the Fitness Center pool, others dislike the idea of a covered pool.
The design includes three depth zones – a zero-depth entry to 3’, 3’ to 5’ and 5’ to 12’. The current pool at Colonial starts at 3’, other than the toddler pool. The toddler area in the new pool will be incorporated into the main pool. The lounge chairs, in 6 inches of water, are designed to provide a line of sight to the shallow toddler area, which includes three play structures. A covered shade area was added after comments from residents.
O’Connor said that preliminary plans for operational hours have the new pool open seven days a week from Memorial Day to Labor day, and Friday, Saturday and Sunday during the warmer fall and spring months. Initial staffing estimates include a minimum of six lifeguards and two staff members at the front desk during peak usage hours. O’Connor said there could be as many as nine lifeguards needed during special events, and staffing could become an issue when school is in session.
The cost for operating the new pool could be less because the pool will not be open as much as it is now, but the cost of staffing when it is open could jump by as much as 50 percent. The Parks and Recreation Department has been talking with the City of Bellaire and the Weekley YMCA on staffing needs, and possibly forming a partnership to help each entity when staffing shortages occur.
O’Connor said he cannot begin to develop a fee structure for usage until council lets him know if the goal of the new pool is the break even, generate money or be subsidized by the city.