Elgin could reopen Wing Park pool with higher fees, time limits

  • The Wing Park Aquatic Center would reopen this year after being closed in 2020 due to the pandemic.

      The Wing Park Aquatic Center would reopen this year after being closed in 2020 due to the pandemic. Rick West | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 4/15/2021 8:32 PM

After being closed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Elgin's Wing Park Family Aquatic Center will reopen in June but with lower capacity and higher entrance fees, city officials said.

A proposal unanimously recommended for approval Wednesday by the Elgin City Council would raise resident fees to $10 from $6, require reservations to enter, eliminate memberships and limit patrons to two-hour time slots. The issue will come up for a final vote in two weeks.

 

Under the current limits mandated by the state's Phase 4 reopening guidelines, the capacity will be 100 people per two-hour session. After each session, there will be a 30-minute window where the facility will close to meet cleaning requirements.

The pool's full capacity is normally 1,510 people. The city said average attendance has normally been around 370 people, with 600 to 800 on peak days.

Council member Carol Rauschenberger said that while she supports the plan, she was "sad" officials had to increase prices. "If a family wanted to take three or four kids, that's an expensive two hours," she said.

Rauschenberger asked that the pricing issue be revisited after the city receives its anticipated federal COVID relief funds.

City Manager Rick Kozal said the fee hike is a "stopgap measure" during the 2021 season. Despite having less revenue based on fewer people, the pool will still need to supply the same number of lifeguards on duty, 12, since state requirements are based on the pool's square footage, not occupancy.

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Those 12 lifeguards will also cost the city more than in 2019 after increases to the minimum wage.

The pool also requires a facility manager, one to two head lifeguards and six attendants to work the admission booths, concession stand, slide dispatch and COVID cleaner.

"We're trying to strike a balance between providing this amenity at a still highly cost-effective rate for city residents without putting the city to greater financial risk because of the additional costs," Kozal said.

City officials said the recommended fees are similar to those of surrounding park districts and municipalities that have determined their 2021 cost structure.

If the state increases capacity to 600 guests or more, the city would remove the reservation requirements and operate with fees per day as opposed to per time slot, officials said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Councilman Toby Shaw took issue with capacity limits and closing periods required for cleaning under the state regulations.

"This is what I call government gone amok, and by government, I mean governor," Shaw said. "But people are so sick and tired of being at home that they're going to be willing to go through this and do this, that's the wild part. We've been conditioned to put up with things like this, which is so unfortunate."

Fees for nonresidents will increase to $12 from $8, and the plan eliminates the youth and senior $2 discounts. The facility will offer half-price Mondays and discounts for additional slots purchased for the same day.

Wing Park has had a swimming amenity for 113 years. The facility includes a 22,653-square-foot recreation pool, double flume slide, sand volleyball court, diving hopper, four water play features, bathhouse, competition lap pool, children's play area and a concession building.

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