Attendance, revenue falter at pools across Allegheny County
By Aaron Aupperlee
Published: Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013, 11:39 p.m.
Steve Skinger had the Highland Park pool to himself on Tuesday afternoon.
Two lifeguards watched as his arms cut through the otherwise empty water only minutes after a rain shower passed.
While soggy weather and cool temperatures helped keep people out of pools this summer, Skinger, 57, of Polish Hill swam nearly every day.
“We missed a few days because of things out of my control, but what are you going to do,” Skinger said, alluding to the summer's frequent thunderstorms.
Attendance and revenue numbers faltered at pools across Allegheny County, but officials said aquatic funding is designed to absorb a bad year now and then. Despite revenue off by as much as 31 percent at some pools, the county, city and municipal officials said they don't expect funding problems to surface next year.
“It's a long-term view,” Tim Ishman, Pittsburgh's assistant director of parks and recreation said of pool budgeting. “It's not just a knee-jerk reaction to a bad summer.”
It rained more, and more often, this summer than last, according to data provided by the National Weather Service in Moon. It rained 20 days in June, 18 days in July and 13 days by the last week of August. Total rainfall during that time period for 2013 topped 2012 by more than an inch.
Average temperatures for the summer months struggled to climb into the 70s. June's average temperature was 69.4 degrees, July's was 73.3, and August's was 69.3 degrees, the weather service reported. June and August featured days with low temperatures in the 40s. August has had 15 days with temperatures above 80 degrees, said Rihaan Gangat, a weather service meteorologist. A five-day stretch from July 15 to July 19 topped 90 degrees.
“Everything has been down this summer,” said Bob Hlebinsky, facilities director at the Mt. Lebanon Recreation Center, where revenue dipped 22 percent and attendance 11 percent. “This is one of the worst summers I can remember in the last couple of years in terms of rains and coolness.”
Allegheny County pools fared no better, where total attendance and revenue dropped 25 percent. Revenue at Boyce Park pool was down 31 percent, according to data provided by the county. By late August, nearly 50,000 fewer people visited county pools this year, generating $202,210.25 less in revenue. The county budgets conservatively in case of a bad summer, spokeswoman Amie Downs said in an email, and the parks department budget relies on more than just pool revenues.
“We can't guess what the impact may be, if any, until we're through the fiscal year,” Downs said.
Revenue for city pools was down 12 percent to $144,990, according to data provided by Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's office. Attendance slipped 17 percent. The city, however, is discussing building a spray park, Ishman said.
For city pools to start feeling the financial pinch of a bad summer, there would need to be a substantial drop-off in the number of season passes — $30 for adults, $15 for children, Ishman said.
“We're not seeing that,” he said.
And then there is always next year, which is where Cranberry manager Jerry Andree is looking. Attendance at the township's pool was down 17 percent, and revenue was down 12 percent.
“Hopefully, next summer is a booming summer,” he said.
Aaron Aupperlee is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412- 320-7986 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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