The city is moving forward with plans to open Point Mallard's aquatic park and celebrate its 50th anniversary despite last year’s closure and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Park Manager Stephanie McLain said Thursday.
The park is holding a one-day season pass sale March 19 in which passes can be bought for $55 instead of the regular price of $99. Regular-price passes can then be bought after the sale through the traditional season opening on Memorial Day weekend and during the season.
On the park website, there’s a notice that park officials “can’t guarantee passes at all times” because of potential COVID-19 limitations.
“It’s February, and we don’t know the restrictions we will face from CDC and the Alabama Department of Public Health at that time (when the park opens),” McLain said.
Mayor Tab Bowling said he’s excited that they’re planning to open as usual in May. He said Parks and Recreation Director Jason Lake has been working with officials from similar facilities around the nation to come up with similar operating plans.
“We’re looking forward to celebrating the Aquatic Center’s 50th anniversary and, depending on the weather, I think it’s going to be a good year,” Bowling said.
McLain said they canceled the traditional season-pass Christmas sale in December because “we didn’t know the restrictions we might face this year.”
City Finance Manager Kyle Demeester said Point Mallard lost $1.78 million last year because it had to stay closed for the summer. A portion of that loss was covered by exhausting a park reserve fund that had accumulated over the years, but the city had to transfer an additional $413,847 from the general fund to completely cover the loss.
The city sold season passes for the Aquatic Center for the summer 2020 season beginning in late 2019. After the season was canceled, the city gave buyers the option of rolling over their purchased pass to 2021 or getting a full refund.
McLain said 562 customers chose to roll their passes over to 2021 and 263 got a refund.
Demeester said the money from the early sale was rolled over into the fiscal 2021 park budget because the passes are now for this summer.
Preparing for patrons
Parks and Recreation officials are hiring, doing routine maintenance and having inspections of the attractions ahead of the traditional Memorial Day weekend opening.
“We’re already working hard to get the water park ready,” McLain said.
McLain said they’ve hired some lifeguards, with their first training planned for Saturday, and they need more potential lifeguards to apply.
“They won’t need any training before we hire them because we will train and certify them,” McLain said. “We will also do the Red Cross certification.”
McLain said they’ve also begun taking applications for seasonal employees for maintenance, cashiers, concessions, gift shop workers and other positions at the water park.
She said applicants must be ages 16 and older. Starting pay is $9 an hour. Applications are available at pointmallardpark.com. They can also be picked up in the administration office at the Point Mallard Ice Complex, Mondays through Fridays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Lake proposed to the City Council hiring a full-time lifeguard supervisor for an annual salary of $66,700.
The person would be over all lifeguards at Point Mallard and the Aquadome, so half of the salary would come from the Point Mallard enterprise fund and half would come from the Parks and Recreation budget in the city’s general fund.
Lake said his department used to have a lifeguard supervisor but it hasn’t had one for years and the position is needed to rebuild the city’s lifeguard ranks.
The lifeguard supervisor will hire and train lifeguards, supervise them during the summer at Point Mallard and all year at the Aquadome. This person will also have to get certifications and training, Lake said.
“There will be more than enough work for this to be a full-time position,” Lake said.
Lake said the city regularly brings in Safe Slide Restoration to inspect Point Mallard’s water slides, and the recent inspection found that the Sky Pond slide at the Olympic Pool needs major work.
Lake said the fiberglass is deteriorating so he proposed to the City Council hiring Safe Slide Restoration, of Fredericktown, Missouri, to do the repairs for $82,400.
Demeester said the money for the repairs, if approved by the City Council at Monday’s meeting, would come out of Point Mallard’s enterprise fund.
“It depends on how Point Mallard’s year goes and it’s possible we would still have to come back later (at the end of fiscal 2021 on Sept. 30) and pay for it in an indirect way out of the general fund,” Demeester said.
The council is scheduled to vote on the lifeguard supervisor position and the Sky Pond slide project at Monday’s 6 p.m. meeting.