The city pool will not be reopening in 2020, Athens Mayor Steve Patterson announced Friday afternoon.
According to the directives issued by the Ohio Department of Health, pools and other aquatic centers are allowed to open, but with several restrictions, including
- Maintaining public restrooms and shower facilities to lower risk of spreading the virus, and disabling or marking off lockers to dictate 6-foot distancing from other patrons.
- Installing physical barriers and visual cues to ensure physical distancing, as well as closure of any non-essential areas of potential congregations, including within the pool, to prohibit individuals from interacting with anyone they don’t live with.
- Food service must operate within the guidelines of the Responsible Restart Ohio for Restaurants and Bars.
- Mandatory face coverings for employees and highly recommended face coverings for patrons.
Due to the recent renovation of the Athens City Pool, there are six different areas patrons can cool off at the facility. However, it makes the task of creating physical distancing measures near impossible.
“We just got those guidelines on the tail end of last week,” Patterson explained. “In looking at them closely, the guidelines for what is mandatory for a pool like ours with not just one tank of water ... it makes it almost impossible to run a pool operation effectively.”
Patterson noted that the city would have also needed to hire additional staff to run the pool, as lifeguards would be focused on lifesaving measures and not enforcing physical distancing. The pool’s occupancy numbers would have needed to be amended as well, to lower the number of individuals in the pool area.
“From a safety and financial standpoint, it just couldn’t be done,” Patterson said. “I’m sure there are going to be a lot of disappointed people, and I can fully empathize with them. My wife and daughters are avid pool goers, and they are definitely sad by this fact.”
He noted that financially, the city pool typically runs just about even with the revenue and expenses, or has a slight deficit. However, much of the revenue the pool collects comes from programming, such as swimming lessons. Patterson said the funding that would have gone to operating the pool this year will be kept to fund the pool’s continued maintenance, as well as the community center’s maintenance, as the two entities share the city’s parks and recreation budget.
“Typically the biggest revenue generator for the pool is family season passes,” Patterson said. “So there is certainly a level of savings (with not opening the pool), but bear in mind that without having the other instructional revenue through fitness classes and other things taking place in that space, that that revenue is not coming in.”
According to interim Nelsonville City Manager Scott Frank, there has not been a decision on whether that city will be opening its pool. Currently, there is construction to expand the pool deck which will last another three weeks, giving the governing officials time to take a good look at the new restrictions and how that may effect the Nelsonville City Pool’s operation.