As the dog days of summer 2020 approach, Upper Arlington officials have increased the maximum capacity at the two swimming pools the city is operating this summer.
Although such communities as Bexley, Columbus, Grandview Heights, Worthington and New Albany decided to keep public swimming pools closed because of public-health concerns and social-distancing requirements related to the COVID-19 coronavirus, Upper Arlington opened Tremont Pool on June 12 and Devon Pool on June 15.
New rules were put in place, including limiting attendance to people who purchased day passes ahead of their visits and capping the number of swimmers allowed during two-hour sessions at 100.
The city manager's office announced swim capacities at both pools had increased to 125 beginning July 3.
"For sessions that have been close to capacity, and as staff has been monitoring how patrons use the pools and surrounding deck spaces, it became clear that both facilities could accommodate an increase in attendance numbers and still maintain social-distancing requirements," said Debbie McLaughlin, Upper Arlington Parks and Recreation director.
Because of the shortened season and the limits on how many swimmers are allowed at each pool, the city is permitting only residents to visit the pools this year.
City officials also projected the pools would operate at a deficit ranging from $80,000 to $200,000, primarily because of lost days at the beginning of the season and the attendance caps.
Through July 5, Tremont Pool saw an average of 72 attendees per open swim session and 288 visitors per day, according to McLaughlin.
At Devon, the averages were 61 people per open swim and 182 per day, she said.
The move to increase capacities came three days ahead of Upper Arlington City Council's decision to require facial coverings in indoor areas of commercial buildings, as well as inside buildings and other indoor spaces that are open to the public and four days before Gov. Mike DeWine announced face masks were required indoors in public places in Franklin County because of the county's "red" status on the state's new virus-rating system.
Despite those actions, McLaughlin said, city officials felt comfortable increasing swim capacities at the pools.
"The mask policy is to protect people in indoor environments where airflow is restricted," she said. "Masks are required to be worn by pool patrons and employees when in common spaces, with the exception of lifeguards and patrons in the pool water.
"Guests and staff are also required to maintain 6 feet (of) social-distance space from people outside of their family group when on the deck or in the pool."
In addition to increasing the number of permitted swimmers, the city manager's office also announced several scheduling adjustments would take effect July 13. They include:
* Daytime adult open-swim sessions at Devon Pool will be available from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays only
* New adult open-swim sessions with lap lanes available have been added at Devon Pool from 7 to 9 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays
* Additional general open-swim sessions at Devon Pool have been added from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. These times were previously reserved for adult open-swim sessions
"We are modifying the Devon schedule in response to customer feedback, sales numbers and staff observations," McLaughlin said. "The weekday adult-only sessions had moderate attendance, while at the same time, adults were requesting evening swim time for leisure use or lap swimming.
"Considering this and the high utilization of primetime general open-swim sessions, we modified the adult-only schedule to include two mid-day sessions and two evening sessions per week and offer more open-swim sessions for all ages," she said.
No changes were made, however, to the 2020 pool-pass system.
"The (parks and recreation) department has received a number of requests about the fee structure and to consider some form of season pass," the city manager's office posted on the city's website July 3. "On revisiting this issue, it has been determined that the fee-per-session approach works best within the current scheduling protocol.
"For example, a passholder may not be able to schedule pool time when desired because a session is already full. Conversely, they may schedule a session but then decide not to attend, inadvertently leaving spaces open that could have been used by another patron."
The posting encouraged people to consider donating to the Upper Arlington Community Foundation's Recreation Scholarship Fund, through uacommunityfoundation.com, to help provide discounted pool admissions for those in need.
The city manager's office noted that a private donation to the UACF at the start of the season allowed for some discounts to be given, but the fund is depleted.