As summer gets underway, the majority of public pools and splash pads across the region plan to open on schedule and charge the same rates as last year.
However, pool patrons in some municipalities will pay increased rates to help cover operational costs and facility upgrades necessary to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
In Gary, the city’s pools are expected to open no later than July 4 because of repairs. However, four pools will remain closed this year at Howe, Hatcher, Washington and Pachter parks.
The first of the pools – Deep River Waterpark in Merrillville – had been slated to open for the season Friday, but cool temperatures delayed the opening.
Park officials studied the entrance fees for the waterpark operated by Lake County, but determined the costs are “fair for the time being," Lake County Parks Superintendent Robert Nickovich said.
Fees increased this year for the Pleasant Township Pool in Kouts from $3.50 to $5 to help defray the $8,000 cost for making the pool handicapped accessible by adding a lift and steps, Township Trustee Jean Oehlman said.
An additional lifeguard was hired so staff could become accustomed to the newly installed lift. Costs for insurance and pool chemicals have also increased, Oehlman said.
Hobart is making $13,000 in similar changes by adding chair lifts and stairs to its pool but will maintain the same rates as last year, said Julie Mandon, the pool’s manager. Mandon said the city tries to keep the pool self-sustaining and allowing patrons to reserve the facility for private parties helps defer costs.
Munster is increasing the fee for late arrivals to the pool by $1. Town residents will now pay $5 and nonresidents $8 to use the pool from 4 to 8 p.m., said Barb Holajter, the town's superintendent of recreation. New for this year the town also added an early bird deal for nonresidents.
Holajter said the decision to increase the late entrance fee was made for budgetary reasons as costs rise for equipment, food and electricity.
“When we look over all of our fees it usually has to increase somewhere,” Holajter said. “That is what we selected this year for it – just to cover the cost of lifeguards – everything is going up.”
Rising operational costs also are driving a $4 increase for annual passes to the Indiana Dunes State Park. While entrance fees to visit the beach will remain the same, the annual pass will now cost $40 for Indiana residents, said Brandt Baughman, the state park's property manager. This is the first time the cost for an annual pass has increased since 2004, Baughman said.
In Hammond, the Aquatic Play Center at Wolf Lake will move to a tiered fee structure for this summer with a weekday rate and an increased weekend rate, said Dru Revis, manager of the play center. In exchange for the increased fees, the session time was extended by 15 minutes. Revis said the changes were made to fall in line with what other parks do and to help cover staffing costs.
Fees for Hammond’s four public pools at Hessville, Martin Luther King Jr., Edison and Pulaski parks will remain the same. This season the pools are available for rent for private parties from 6 to 8 p.m. on Saturdays.
“It’s more that we just felt that we didn’t want to increase (the fees) this year,” said Sue Carroll, the city’s pool supervisor. “We may need to next year. At this point in time, the feeling was we’re not going to increase them.”
Two municipalities – East Chicago and Crown Point – are maintaining the same fees for this season following increases last year.
Up until last year, East Chicago residents could use the city’s pools for free before a $10 season pass was instituted to help with operational costs. Crown Point raised rates last year to allow a $1 of the admission fee per visitor to be placed in a fund for capital improvements, said Jennie Burgess, the park administrator.
“What we do depends on the weather plain and simple,” Burgess said. “If you get a really hot summer then you got a really productive pool.”
Last summer was a "banner year" at Riverview Community Pool in Lake Station, and pool staff are hoping for good weather again this year, said Dewey Lemley, the city's parks superintendent.
"We do look at revenue from time to time, and we have raised rates in the past when that was necessary," Lemley said. "We feel at this point we will wait another year and revisit pool rates."
Times staff writers Chas Reilly, Deborah Laverty and Chelsea Schneider Kirk contributed to this report.