Rifle Metro Pool revenue takes slight dip but popularity still waterproof

People enjoy the lazy river at Rifle Metro Pool this past year.
Ray K. Erku / Post Indepedendent

Rifle Metro Pool served 2,517 pretzels, 1,503 nachos and 2,420 cups of cheese in summer 2022, administrative data shows. In case you’re wondering, those total cups equate to 37.8 gallons of liquid cheese.

Rifle Parks and Recreation Director Austin Rickstrew told Rifle City Council on Nov. 2 that despite concessions basically killing it this past pool season, total revenue took a slight dip in comparison to 2021.

Revenue — derived from swimming lessons, rentals, admissions and concessions — dropped from $240,935 in 2021 to $226,995 in 2022.

“We’ve seen a large increase in costs for chemicals,” Rickstrew said. “As well as energy costs — gas, electric and trash.”

This past year has seen nearly a $30,000 increase in utility costs for the Rifle Metro Pool, jumping from $60,843 at the end of the 2021 season to $90,678 in 2022.

The market for pool chemicals has also been off the charts, according to city data. The average chlorine cost Rifle pays has risen by $55 since the start of the 2022 season, Rickstrew said, and the city was stuck with a $33,589 bill on just pool chemicals alone.

But the city has actually exceeded financial expectations for the pool facility since setting them in 2020, a year that was highly hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Back then, the financial department predicted 2021 wouldn’t even reach $169,000 in total revenue. This means 2022, just the second year with pandemic protocols in the rearview, has gone well beyond projections.

One reason revenue only slightly dropped this year is because the city continues to face troubles in the hiring department.

“That required us to either close down the waterslide, if we didn’t have enough staff,” Rickstrew said. “We had our managers teaching swim lessons, lifeguarding or filling in those vacant spots.

“Positions that we didn’t have filled were our concessions and our guest service specialists.”
When the pandemic hit, it also created a ripple effect that postponed high school sports seasons. That postponement meant some local high school students, which make up a huge chunk of the lifeguard market, were still busy with sports well into the summer of 2021 and therefore couldn’t set aside time for lifeguarding.

But that’s just part of the issue. Rifle has been recently scrambling for lifeguards because of salary and pay rates. Rifle declined from 78 staffers in 2021 to 77 this year. There’s a total of 110 spots the pool tries to fill each year. 

Rifle Metro Pool has historically been on the lower spectrum of employee compensation compared to elsewhere because it’s just a seasonal pool. They also started the 2022 season hiring new recruits at $13 an hour, a slight bump in pay from previous years.

Hudson Parrington is greeted with a whoosh of water after sliding down a small waterslide at Rifle Metro Pool in 2021
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

Intermittent closures based on employee numbers haven’t hindered overall attendance, however, and Rifle City Council still seemed quite impressed by what they heard from Rickstrew last week.

Rifle City Council member Sean Strode referred to Rifle Metro Pool swim lessons, which saw 1,160 participant enrollments this season, as a “well-oiled machine.

“It’s quite impressive how fluidly the staff works during those times,” he said.

Rifle Metro Pool also closed out the 2022 season with 21,734 tickets sold for public open swim alone. Combined with 2021, that’s more than 45,000 tickets.

“My prediction is we’ll keep growing because our cost to get in is so cheap compared to other outdoor pools in the area,” Rickstrew said. “And we have one of the nicest facilities, in my opinion, for amenities.”

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