Officials with the Hastings Parks and Recreation Department are doing everything they can to open the city’s Aquacourt Water Park in a safe manner.
“That’s why we want to take our time to do our homework for this coming week to make an educated decision,” Parks and Rec Director Jeff Hassenstab said Friday morning.
Hassenstab said he and other Parks and Rec officials currently are weighing their options and expect to make a decision by the end of next week.
“After hearing the directed health measure changes (Thursday) we’re evaluating whether we can open up the Aquacourt at this time,” Hassenstab said. “Since we’ve been on hold we have a lot of logistics to figure out. We’re in the evaluation stage on whether we can open up the Aquacourt and what that looks like.”
He is encouraged by the Phase 2 guidelines outlined Thursday by Gov. Pete Ricketts to take effect June 1, which state gatherings will be loosened to 25 people or 25% capacity, whichever is greater, but no more than 3,000 people.
That means the Aquacourt — which has a capacity of 1,000 — could handle up to 250 patrons at any one time during Phase 2 of restrictions meant to thwart the spread of the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19.
Staffing is the biggest issue for reopening the Aquacourt at this point, Hassenstab said. He said some of the water park’s typical employees already have chosen to get different jobs.
“At this point we’re trying to figure out if it’s going to be possible,” he said. “We want to do as much as we can to get back to normal and get the water park opened, but I don’t want to give you an answer and then say later on it’s not feasible.”
One option for dealing with a staffing shortage would be to not open all areas of the Aquacourt.
“The only way we would need less staff is if we don’t open certain sections of the pool,” Hassenstab said. “So, for example, if we only open the main pool that would require less staff. If we say we’re not going to open the lazy river and the wave pool at all in the summer, then that changes the staffing requirements.”
To keep all areas of the Aquacourt open requires 18 lifeguards on duty during all hours of operation.
“Those are things we need to figure out and just make sure we have adequate staffing,” Hassenstab said. “All options are on the table.”
Once a decision is made, opening the Aquacourt takes three weeks of preparation — to train staff and ensure the pool is in working order.
Opening playgrounds and other parks facilities will happen much more quickly, although Hassenstab said they will remain closed at least until May 31.
“I could see the splash pad and wading pools being open prior to the Aquacourt opening, or even if the Aquacourt doesn’t open,” he said. “They are much more manageable for us in terms of numbers. We’re still evaluating park restrooms, playgrounds and the skate park, as well. (Thursday) really changed the guidelines considerably. It helped us out to see that downward trend in cases.”