Arlington raises prices at two aquatic centers

ARLINGTON -- When Memorial Day weekend rolls around, families will need a few extra bucks to make a splash at the city's two largest aquatic centers.

The Parks and Recreation Department has raised admission fees by 50 cents at the Bad Konigshofen Family Aquatic Center in southwest Arlington and the Randol Mill Outdoor Family Aquatic Center in north Arlington. Assistant parks Director Bill Gilmore said the increase will help cover rising operating costs.

Last year, Arlington spent about $1.2 million operating its six outdoor and one indoor pools, which brought in $839,921 in revenue, according to city records. Operating costs are expected to go up this year as the city works to meet new state health requirements to test for cryptosporidium, a chlorine-resistant parasite that caused an outbreak of stomach cramps, diarrhea, nausea and fever in North Texas during summer 2008.

"We obviously have our own revenue issues," Gilmore said. "We're hoping to keep quality facilities and a good staff."

Admission to the two facilities will be $5.50 for guests under 48 inches tall and $6 for others. The aquatic centers will open May 29 through 31. Admission fees will stay the same for the Allen Bolden, Woodland West and Howard Moore facilities, which are $3 to $3.50, depending on height, and at Helen Wessler, which is $2 for any height. Arlington's outdoor pools open six days a week starting June 5.

Even with the increase, Arlington's outdoor pools remain an affordable alternative to larger, privately run water parks like Six Flags Hurricane Harbor and Hawaiian Falls, Gilmore said.

"We still allow you to park for free and bring your coolers," he said.

Unlike Fort Worth, which is closing six of its seven swimming pools this summer because of budget problems, Arlington is not considering closings. But the city has taken some cost-saving measures. Like last year, Arlington's outdoor pools and water parks will be closed one day a week. On any given day from Monday through Wednesday, four pools will be open. But all will be open Thursdays through Sundays, the peak swimming days.

The indoor pool at the Hugh Smith Recreation Center will be open seven days a week.

This summer, the city will have to meet stricter state health requirements for the testing and treatment of cryptosporidium, which is usually found in feces and is spread through water. Arlington is considering hyperchlorinating the pools on the days they are closed, which could cost $1,200 a week, or sending out water samples once a month for testing, which can cost $500 or more per sample, Gilmore said.

An outbreak of the crypto bug made big news two years ago, but no illnesses were linked to any Arlington public pool, Gilmore said. Pool admissions dropped 5 percent in 2008 after outbreaks at other public water parks.

"We had inquiries, and we had concerns," he said. "We didn't have one confirmed case."

Arlington does not have the estimated $185,000 needed to retrofit its pools with ultraviolet disinfection systems that kills the parasite and other harmful bugs, Gilmore said.

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