By GREG RUSSELL
Register Staff Writer
Officials say the summer season debut of Gainesville’s Leonard Park Aquatic Center has been a success — and a recently announced expansion of the season’s timeframe may become regular.
Since opening in late July, the pool has been open seven days a week and its last “regular” day of operation is Sunday. But City Manager Barry Sullivan said the choice to provide additional operation days on Saturdays and Sundays through Sept. 29, was partially inspired by the new aquatic center’s delayed opening, which kept the city without a public pool for most of the summer.
“That was one of the things that gave us the idea,” he said. “And it’s something we’re even considering for next year. But it’s all going to depend on how long we can keep our staff.”
Sullivan said the new pool’s lifeguards aren’t generally full-time employees. Mostly high school students, they work erratic hours that tend to add up to less than 40-hour weeks while they keep involved with other extracurricular activities during the summer and early fall.
Ideally, he said, the city will maintain a pool staff of 20 people, with 13 of them at the pool each day.
“The biggest thing is about being able to maintain the required level of lifeguards,” he said.
But the new pool itself, Sullivan said, has had a strong opening month.
“It’s been great,” he said. “We’ve averaged around 270 people a day.”
Sullivan added that this number applies to come-and-go visitors rather than a crowd always populating the pool during its six daily hours of operation.
“Legally, there’s what you can put in there at one time by engineering standards, which is around 350, and then there’s the reality of what we can handle, which is around 300,” he said. “It’s our first year to operate it and we haven’t hit an uncomfortable place at this point. But we’d rather be safe. Safety is our number-one priority and fun is number two.”
Extended season swimming hours will be 1 to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Sept. 29. Private pool party rentals will also be available on those days, both before and after the regular afternoon swimming hours.
For more information, call (940) 668-4534 or (940) 668-4530.
By GREG RUSSELL
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