CARBONDALE — The luster that came with the first year of the Super Splash Park in Carbondale has come and gone, but Park District officials are still considering the inaugural season of the pool a success despite falling short of projected revenues.
Carbondale Park District Executive Director Kathy Renfro said the pool served about 30,000 people after counting all admissions, private parties and events hosted.
“I thought it went great,” she said. “We were pleased with who we engaged.”
Although the numbers have not been fully vetted by the district’s accountants, Renfro said the pool saw revenues of about $220,000. She said the park will see about a $20,000 profit from the first season, well below the anticipated $200,000 the district projected.
“We didn’t hit our revenue numbers, but we didn’t lose money at the same time,” Renfro said. “As long as we stay in the black in our opening season, we will stay happy about that.”
She pointed to the discounted admission charge for Carbondale and Jackson County residents. Since the Jackson County Board donated a gift of about $10,000 to the pool, the park district allowed anybody in the county to swim at the same rate as those who live in the district.
Looking to next season, Renfro said there will probably be a $1 increase on admissions.
Also, she said the district will be looking into more after-hour programming for the middle and high school students, which were popular during the spring and summer months.
“We are looking for those big user groups to ramp up our revenue, which would allow us to keep our general admission rates lower,” Renfro said.
She said the district will also be able to trim some of its staff now that it is a bit more familiar with the facility and what its needs are. Also, she said the district will be a bit more tempered with its revenue projections next year.
Harvey Welch, president of the park district’s Board of Commissioners, said he was pleased with the first year of the pool. He said he was happy with the fact that the pool opened at all.
Construction on the splash park had a target date of finishing by May 2015. But, in March 2015, the district received a letter from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources telling them to stop incurring debt to the Parks and Recreational Facility Construction Grant Program, the $2.5 million grant the district had secured for the project.
In October 2015, the district received another letter from IDNR saying it could resume construction and that all eligible costs that were incurred before the March 9 suspension will be reimbursable to 75 percent of the grant amount.
The park district secured a line of credit in January to cover the unfunded cost of the project until refunded by the state. Renfro said that money is expected at any time.
The park district on Sept. 27 was presented with a national Blue Mind Award by Dr. Wallace J. Nichols, author of the book “Blue Mind” and the founder of the Blue Mind movement in Chicago.
The award was for the city’s 40-year journey to build an outdoor public pool. The award recognizes efforts of an individual, group or organization to create positive change in their communities by exploring new ways of understanding and enhancing the relations between humans and healthy waterways, a news release from the park district said.
Welch said that it says a lot when thinking about Carbondale doing things together in a positive manner.
“We overcame some of our differences and found a way to agree to disagree to benefit everybody,” he said. “I am hoping we will transition that feeling to other concerns.”