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East Peoria Times-Courier - East Peoria, IL
  • Fon du Lac Park District hires company to manage Splashdown

  • Brad Smith, director of parks and recreation at Fon du Lac Park District, wants to set the record straight about Splashdown.

    It is not closing.
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  • Brad Smith, director of parks and recreation at Fon du Lac Park District, wants to set the record straight about Splashdown. It is not closing. The park board voted in January to hire USA Pools Inc. to manage the water park. Fon du Lac Park District has owned and operated Splashdown since it opened in 1997. Every year since its inception, the water park has operated in the red. Smith said the reason for hiring the management company is due mainly to financial reasons. “I’m sure most people think we make a ton of money up there, and that’s not the case,” Smith said. In fact, there is about a $30,000 deficit annually at the water park. “It’s very expensive to operate and maintain,” Smith said. “The biggest issue up there is we have a two-and-a-half month operating season. If the climate was such that we could be open for four to five months, we’d probably be OK.” The numerous pumps and mechanical systems, as well as the chemicals, are expensive to maintain at the water park, as is the payroll for the 150 part-time staff members, Smith said. “(Due to) the size of the facility, we have to have a very large staff to operate it safely,” Smith said. “The smaller facilities such as Morton or Washington are probably operating at one-third of the staff that we are. It’s a very large payroll.” By hiring USA Pools to manage Splashdown, Smith said they can cut their deficit by 20 percent. In 2012, the net income from Splashdown was showing a deficit of $30,711. Smith said with the new management company and adding concessions sales, the park district will have a deficit of $3,200 instead of $30,000. The park district will pay USA Pools $296,000 for its one-year contract to manage the facility. The park district will still receive the income for swimming admissions. Anything that is outside of normal swimming hours, such as swimming lessons or special events, the revenue split is 75 percent to USA Pools and 25 percent to the park district. “What we’re doing by placing a management system in there is to be as fiscally responsible as we can. They’re purchasing power is huge compared to ours. What they’ll pay for chlorine and (other chemicals) will be a fraction of what we will have to pay,” Smith said. USA Pools will do the hiring, payroll (which does not come out of the park district’s budget), training, swimming lessons, rentals, etc., at the water park. The park district’s only responsibility will be maintenance of the infrastructure. “If a pump goes down, we replace it,” Smith said. Smith said the idea to hire the management company has been discussed for a number of years. The concept is not unique as there are management companies that do this at other aquatic centers and golf courses, he said. Despite rumors around town, Smith said the park district was not considering shutting down Splashdown. “I think people would be pretty upset. ... It’s a service for the community having the offerings of aquatics,” he said. “It’s a great facility. I think pretty much anybody you would talk to that’s associated in this area would probably say the same thing.” Splashdown’s season begins May 25 and runs until Aug. 11. USA Pools has the staff list from last year, and Smith said they will “absolutely” hire local students to work there as they have in the past. “They’re fully aware these are highly trained individuals,” Smith said. However, there may be other changes with the new management group. “It’s going to take the general public awhile to get used to the fact that it’s not us up there managing it, and I am sure there are going to be some changes,” Smith said. “I think we will still have a nice water park with nice offerings, and it will save the taxpayers money.

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