Financial, safety concerns will keep aquatic center closed

ABERDEEN, S.D. (By Elisa Sand – The Aberdeen Aquatic Center will not open this summer.

The Aberdeen Park and Recreation Board met in special session Wednesday afternoon and recommended not opening the pool, citing both financial and health concerns with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s the horrible, responsible thing to do,” said board member David Sandvig at the end of his comments to the board.

Sandvig was not alone in his sentiment. Each board member in attendance spoke about how the decision to not to open the pool was difficult. Board member Tom Kuck was not in attendance, and board member Nick Gehrts appeared by video.

The Aberdeen City Council heard about the reopening plan earlier this week. It included limiting attendance to 300 people at any given time and splitting swim times into two three-hour sessions with time in between for sanitation.

Parks, Recreation and Forestry Director Mark Hoven and City Manager Lynn Lander explained to the council that opening would mean a significant loss in revenue — from $75,000 to $150,000 — since aquatic center maximum capacity is 1,400.

Hoven told the park board Wednesday that the total budget for the aquatic center is $400,000, and about $388,000 comes in each year in revenue. Although the parks and recreation budget includes the operation of more than just the pool, the department is limited on what can be used to make up any shortfall. Hoven said about $70,000 had been identified for the potential shortfall in the aquatic center budget.

Matt Prehn, chairman of the park and recreation board, said there will likely be additional budget cuts later this year, but how much isn’t yet known. The city would have certainly lost money opening the aquatic center, he said.

“This is definitely not a fun day,” Prehn said. “We all want this pool to be open. We have a great asset in the aquatic center.”

There will be some ongoing expenses for the pool this summer for utilities and maintenance of the grounds. Hoven estimated those at $10,000 to $15,000.

Although the pool will not be open, Hoven said Travis Lemer, recreation/aquatic supervisor, and Gene Morsching, recreation superintendent, have some ideas for summer activities to “ease the pain.”