New pool was popular gathering spot for many this summer

GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS The pool remained busy even into the late days of August as fall sports and family vacations took place. The pool was open a week longer than previous years due to adequate staffing.
Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

Chatfield’s new pool got people into the swim of things, and then they got on the alligator.

“Seeing the finished, final product was very exciting, and it was a lot different than I had imagined, so it was fun touring the facility and imagining how things would run,” recounted longtime Chatfield pool manager Melissa Wolf. She spoke of the opportunity to manage the new Chatfield municipal swimming pool for its first season – a place complete with a two-story slide, water spouts for the littlest swimmers and a floating foam alligator lazing about in the middle of the deeper end of the pool.

Wolf elaborated that there were some challenges that came with operating a pool that’s state of the art compared to the vintage 1960s pool that used to stand just west of the high school.

“There were many new challenges to opening a new pool. We created a new activities schedule, the bigger pool required more staff to work each day, and we had a concession stand which was a first in the ten years I’ve worked at the pool,” she said. “I think deciding how to run and handle these different aspects were the first challenges.”

She said the city and she had a goal to open the new pool the same time they would normally open each year.

“We implemented a new computer system that made all aspects of the pool digital, such as membership and lesson registration, payments, and point of sale,” Wolf said. “The first days are always busy, so adding that new system in made it even more hectic.”

She said maintenance of the new pool was similar from the pool house standpoint. Head lifeguards and the concessions manager did have the task of learning how to clean the concessions machines.

“But the pool opening went as expected for me. I knew the start of the season would be a busy time. I knew we were implementing new systems, so I was ready for the busy,” Wolf added.

The staff was expanded to include 30 guards in addition to the annual aerobics instructor and basic lifeguard crew, as there were so many excited people to oversee in the first few weeks.

“Watching the kids’ excitement over the new features was the best part of our first few days,” Wolf said. “Our waterslide line trailed around the structure for many days after. It didn’t seem like it was harder or easier not to have a wading pool – we still had a kids’ area roped off for young children, and the only difference was that this area was connected to the pool now.”

Wolf reported that membership sales and attendance numbers more than tripled. “It seemed we brought in many more out-of-town swimmers this summer. We had many out-of-town families sign kids up for lessons as well,” she said. “Also, we had many compliments on the size and cleanliness of our new pool and bathhouse. They were excited over new activity availability as well.”

When the weather began to cool at the end of August, the staff got busy to prepare for the Aug. 23 closing date. “We were able to stay open an extra week this year,” Wolf said. “Our season length always depends on the staff. We have many staff who are in college who move back and begin classes in late August, and we have many staff in high school sports. Our final date and whether we can keep the pool open and keep normal activity times always depends on those two things.”

She added, “The closing of the pool was very similar to past years. We always clean and put away deck items. Our only change was concessions – we sold items our final week until we ran out, and luckily, we managed to plan that about perfectly. We didn’t begin running out of items until the last two days.”

Wolf, who has been the pool manager for several seasons but has chosen to float away after this one due to the distance of her commute, reminded families who have membership cards to keep them in a safe place until next summer, when the sun’s out and the water’s warm again.

“Families and individuals who have memberships can keep their membership cards. They can be reused each summer,” she said.

Wolf concluded that she enjoyed being part of the crew that got to welcome swimmers to the new pool. “I feel the new changes with the new pool – mainly the online aspects and card system – will be so beneficial once it becomes second nature for the city and the community,” she said. “It was a great first summer at our new facility, and as everyone gets used to the new facility, each summer will run even smoother.”