Jump in attendance means more revenue for city

by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: DOUG BURKHARDT - A guiding hand: In a Monday morning session, swimming instructor Cassy Barnett works with several preschool kids. The Aquatic Center has added classes this winter to try to meet a big jump in demand. Forest Grove’s Aquatic Center is more popular than ever this winter, and even with the swimming pool staying open seven days a week, that’s still not enough to keep up with growing demand.

“We’re busy,” said Tom Gamble, director of the Forest Grove Parks & Recreation Department, which operates the pool. “I don’t have a real good idea as to why, but it’s a good problem to have.”

“It’s been such a good winter,” added Cindy Donoven, administrative assistant at the aquatic center on Northwest Sunset Drive. “Usually it falls off in the winter, but this year it has picked up. I don’t know what that’s a reflection of.”

Donoven said the facility tries to accommodate everybody, but sometimes the pool cannot handle any more swimmers.

The Aquatic Center recently added two sections of beginners’ swimming classes due to the increased demand.

”We have several swimming classes going, with 35 to 40 kids every half hour,” Gamble explained. “It becomes a space issue. There are only so many spaces to put kids in the pool.”

“Our arthritis sessions are pretty busy, too,” Donoven pointed out. “And the kids’ swimming classes are the most full. Maybe the economy is turning around, or there are more people in the community. We like it.”

The increased attendance translates into more revenue going into the city’s general fund, which is always welcome news in an era of squeezed municipal budgets.

According to Forest Grove City Manager Michael Sykes, registrations for swimming lessons have seen a significant jump over the past several years.

“Swimming lesson registration for winter classes was very strong this year. Most classes are full and have waiting lists,” Sykes explained in a report to the Forest Grove City Council. “This has had a positive impact in revenue over prior years. Aquatic Center revenue is more than $15,000 ahead of last year at this time.”

The increased attendance has two edges to it, however.

Elena Parker, a Forest Grove resident, found it so busy one day last week that she and her friend, Tom Henderson of Dilley, left because it was so crowded.

“We’ve been going in during lap time,” explained Parker. “There has been a noticeable increase in the number of people attending this winter.”

Parker said she tries goes to the pool a couple times a week, usually at 6 or 7 in the morning.

“You’d think people wouldn’t be up that early,” she laughed. “Tom used to be able to get a lane to himself in the morning; now you never can.”

    “It’s good for the aquatic center, but not necessarily so good for those wanting to swim,” Donoven acknowledged.

Trying different times of the day hasn’t alleviated the crowded conditions Parker has been encountering at the pool.

“We went in at 11:45 a.m. on a Monday, and couldn’t even find a place to park,” Parker explained. “We knew the pool would be full, and we didn’t even stay.”

Parker offered no insights as to why the aquatic center seems to be increasingly busy this winter.

“It might just be people getting in shape for the summer,” she said.

Despite the splash of swimmers, Parker plans to continue to go to the pool.

“You just try to be polite, and try not to bump into people,” she said.

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