Rapids council votes to further geo-restrict aquatic facility access
By City Times staff
WISCONSIN RAPIDS – In July 21 council action, city alderman passed a motion to further geo-restrict aquatic facility entrance to Wisconsin Rapids residents and existing season pass holders for the remainder of the season.
Some council members say that limiting capacity to 50 percent, due to COVID-19, has caused some issues.
“When we voted to open the pool up last month, we limited the capacity to 400 people and there is concern with the capacity of the pool, what is going to happen should city residents start being turned away,” Alder Steve Koth said. “The city residents that live here, or the taxpayers that live in this community, they are the ones that are paying for this pool, that are building it, and I just want to make sure that the people that are paying for the pool get to use the pool, that we are not kicking out residents to make way for someone from the adjacent municipalities.”
“I’ve gotten calls from residents that have had to wait. I, myself, have had to wait. This weekend I got a call from a resident who is a season pass holder, who was told that 35 people had to come out in order for him to get in,” added Alder Jake Cattanach.
“My thought on it is the residents; they are paying more than what non-residents are, no matter which way you slice it. We are paying for it with our taxes, then the entry fees daily are only $2 less than what a non-resident is paying.
“My main concern for the rest of the summer is that Wisconsin Rapids residents get access to the aquatic center. They are the ones whose tax dollars pay for it.
Director of Public Works Joe Terry stated that long wait times were not common.
“The pool has reached capacity on just about every day that we’ve seen a sunny day for the whole day. The reports that I’ve gotten back from staff is that when we have reached capacity, the wait times are anywhere from seconds to minutes. I did hear that there were approximately 35 people that were waiting this last Saturday; that was our busiest day yet, just this past Saturday,” Terry said.
“For the most part, the waits have been fairly short, the folks that come in the morning, stay for three or four hours, their stay is extending into that 2 o’clock hour or 2:30 hours. Some of the folks that are coming in the afternoon are showing up at about that time, and generally it has been working itself out.”
Terry added that the pool had only been open for a couple of weeks and that numbers of non-residents using the aquatic facility could not yet be determined.
“We only have been open now for two weeks, so I don’t yet have a report to submit as far as percentage of residents versus non-resident patrons. I will say that the city has sold season passes to residents and non-residents,” he said.
“I guess in this point in time, unless we saw a situation where we could be sure that the issue is that we have a lot of non-residents on site that we let this play out a little bit longer, because it is challenging enough just dealing with the geo-restrictions.”
Terry added that further restrictions would lead to refunding season passes and that the influx of non-residents helps fill the center on the slower days and increases concession sales.
Koth added that it was unfair that the city was experiencing these issues, as the facility was designed to welcome outside visitors; but, due to COVID-19, the city was put in a position where they needed to make decisions on restrictions.
“That pool is designed to be a regional facility,” Koth said. “When we were being told the plans to build this, this facility was designed to service a range of 60,000 people that live in the region. We can’t do it, not this year. We had to draw a line somewhere.”
After much discussion, the motion to further restrict facility usage to Wisconsin Rapids residents and season pass holders passed 7-1. That motion was later amended to include a start date of July 25, which passed 6-2.