After low attendance last summer even when temperatures were in the 90s, the city of Lodi is asking local businesses, organizations and even community members to consider giving back by sponsoring a free weekend at Blakely Pool.
The idea for the sponsorships started when the Lodi Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services department held a free weekend during a heat wave this past August as a way of introducing people to the outdoor pool, department director Jeff Hood said. The city also opened the pool on Friday, when it is normally not open.
About 450 people came out on that Friday, Saturday and Sunday to swim in the pool.
The next weekend, when the city went back to their regular admission prices, only four people showed up on Saturday and only 10 on Sunday.
“We have a need for the pool for swim lessons and league swim, but we’d like to round it out and make it more available to the community,” Hood said. “With a pool there, it seems a shame to not have people in there on the weekend.”
Hood wondered if the admission price of $1.50 per person was too much for some families, so he decided to ask for help. A local resident has already approached the recreation director, and said he wanted to gather some friends and neighbors together to sponsor a free day.
The hope is that service organizations, businesses or churches will sponsor the pool for one of the 10 weekends during the summer, Hood said. The sponsors will be able to put up a banner and advertise that they are providing the free admission. The cost to sponsor the pool on a Saturday and Sunday is $650, mainly for the cost of lifeguards.
“It’s not a huge amount of money for a service group or a business, and it is in the middle of one of the lower socio-economic parts of town,” Hood said. “Not everyone gets to play at the Grape Bowl or swim in the Hutchins (Street Square) pool, so this might be the only place where they get to participate in recreation.”
Other cities and towns, including Sacramento, have closed their community pools because of how expensive they are to operate.
“Pools are very costly to operate and require a subsidy, but having a public pool is part of community life in Lodi,” Hood said. “I’m hopeful that with the community’s help, we can offer even more opportunities to our youths to enjoy our pools at Blakely Park.”
In Elk Grove, the city has also experienced lower attendance at the Jerry Fox Swim Center, which is a basic lap pool similar to Blakely. The Cosumnes Community Services District manages the pool, which is at least 50 years old, aquatics coordinator Beth Frazer said.
“You can just tell it’s old,” Frazer said. “It feels like a backyard pool. It doesn’t have the draw that the other pool does.”
CSD’s other pool is at the Barbara Morse Wackford Community and Aquatic Complex. Even though the admission for adults is $3 more at Wackford, people still flock to it, Frazer said. The aquatic complex opened in 2004, and it has a water playground, a 146-foot waterslide, a zero-depth entry recreation pool and a competition lap pool.
“It is not just (about) having amenities, but having it look new,” Frazer said.
Still, both pools have strong attendance, in part because Sacramento has shut down pools.
Twin Arbors Athletic Club in Lodi has actually seen an increase in their swimming attendance over the years, said Dennis Kaufman, the club’s general manager.
One of the reasons families come to swim at Twin Arbors during the summer is because parents are already used to swimming in the health club’s pools year-round. For example, many of the water exercise classes are filled with moms, who later bring their kids to swim.
The gym’s tennis club, at 1900 S. Hutchins St., and the racquetball club, at 2040 Cochran Road, both have heated outdoor pools that are popular all year long.
“We are creatures of habit. If we eat bad foods, we continue to eat bad foods until we make a change,” Kaufman said. “If you are used to going in and swimming all the time, whether it is rain or shine, you’ll go in and swim.”
Twin Arbors started heating the tennis club pool 22 years ago, and the racquetball club pool 10 years ago. He said the city could weigh whether heating the Blakely pool would be cost-effective if it resulted in more frequent usage, Kaufman said.
“In our case, we are profit-making,” Kaufman said. “If we can break even on having swimming pools open in the winter and then make money during the summer, it is a (winning) proposition for us.”
If you are interested in sponsoring the Blakely Pool, contact Hood at 209-333-6893 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact reporter Maggie Creamer at email@example.com.