Vandehey Waters gears up for second season
BY MIKE WARREN
MARSHFIELD – To say Marshfield’s new Vandehey Waters Outdoor Aquatic Center was more successful in its first full season than the former Hefko Pool was in its last few would be a definite understatement. In fact, Vandehey Waters brought in more revenue in its first year than Hefko did in its last four, and attracted an average of twice as many people, on a per year basis. That’s according to a report provided by the city’s Parks & Recreation Department, which was presented to the Common Council last fall, at season’s end.
Marshfield’s new outdoor aquatic center opens June 6, and as the 2023 season approaches, city officials are hopeful they can build on the success that Vandehey Waters had in 2022.
“We had double the attendance compared to what Hefko had in the past, and we had more actual open hours compared to what was scheduled,” said Recreation Manager Amanda Bruce, in her yearend report to the Common Council last October. “We were actually open a higher percentage of what we had scheduled. We were open actually a higher amount of hours than any previous year,” Bruce added. “So, we were open 83 percent of the time that we were supposed to be open.”
Bruce’s 2022 report shows Vandehey Waters was closed just four total days last season, and 19 partial days. That means Vandehey was open for 57 full days last summer.
Vandehey Waters attracted 35,397 people last year. That compares with the 20,895 patrons who visited Hefko Pool in 2016 – its best year during the pool’s final run. Hefko attracted 16,724 people in 2017, 18,723 in 2018 and 16,579 in 2019, for an annual average attendance of 18,230, or just over 17,000 fewer people than Vandehey Waters attracted in 2022.
Vandehey Waters generated $234,350 in revenue last year, or $95,539 more than Hefko made in its final four seasons combined. However, outdoor aquatic centers, like municipal swimming pools, are still not break-even operations. The expenses at Vandehey last year totaled $294,883, meaning it cost the city $60,530 to operate. That’s a 20 percent difference between revenue and expenses. That figure for Hefko Pool averaged 39.5 percent from 2016-19, including 47 percent in its final year.
Like most public amenities, wages and benefits account for the bulk of Vandehey’s expenses. That figured amounted to $178,380 in 2022. Repairs, equipment and supplies cost the city $89,605, while $26,898 went towards utilities.
Staffing remains Bruce’s main concern.
“We really need competitive wages in order to attract and maintain people,” Bruce told the council in her seasonal summary. “I know for a fact, in town, there’s other lifeguards making $15.50 an hour, and I’m sitting here trying to pay them $11.50 starting, so that is something that will have to heavily be discussed if this is going to be successful moving forward.”
Vandehey Waters opens on Tuesday. Perhaps there is a reason for that. Tuesday was the busiest day of the week at the aquatic center in 2022, attracting 6,214 people. The second-busiest day was Thursday, with 4,771 visitors. Fridays and Sundays were the next-busiest, followed by Mondays and Wednesdays. Saturdays were the slowest days of the season, attracting just 3,397 patrons.
The new $7-million facility features three slides, two diving boards, climbing wall, basketball hoops, full concession stand, family changing rooms, private changing stalls, family shelter, game area, current channel, grass area, shade structures and plenty of lounge chairs. Pool hours are noon to 7 p.m. daily.
For resident and non-resident pricing, visit the city’s website at https://ci.marshfield.wi.us/visitors/vandehey_waters_aquatic_center/index.php.