With unexpected rising hydro rates, the Windsor International Aquatic and Training Centre (WIATC) could end up costing much more to operate per year than originally anticipated.
The initial cost to maintain the centre in 2013, when the new state of the art facility first opened its doors, was estimated just under $1.5 million. Since then operation costs have skyrocketed to $3.2 million, $1.7 million over its initial estimated cost. The operating budget also includes the Adventure Bay Family Water Park.
Jen Knights, who heads the city’s aquatic services, blamed the high operations cost on a number of different factors, which is just an addition to the increasing hydro rates in Ontario.
“Operating an aquatic facility requires a considerable amount of energy as many of the pumps and filters run on a continual basis. These are impacted by higher hydro rates,” said Jen Knights.
According to Knights, the facility has taken a series of measures to help lower the cost of maintenance. Such as adjusting the variable drive motors on the facilities pumps which increases and decreases the flow rates depending on the time of day and activities in the facility.
“Another energy use reduction we have made is to adjust lighting levels when different areas of the facility are not in use,” said Knights.
There is only so much the facility can do in regards to cutting cost without jeopardizing safety or going against the Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA) regulations.
“The number of staff required to operate the facility and based on the attractions we have in the water park the number of staff, for safety reasons, is high. We have worked hard to adhere to the regulations but have also been able to adjust staffing levels to reduce costs where it is possible to do so safely and while maintaining our regulatory requirement,” said Knights.
Cutting back on the number of staff poses a huge safety risk. Five extra full-time and three extra part-time lifeguards had to be hired on top of the 27 employees who were already hired. The outcome of hiring new staff required another coordinator position. Increasing staffing resulted in an additional $250,000 in staffing costs.
The Technical Standards and Safety Authority required more lifeguards than were originally estimated in the original budget.
The aquatics complex has seen a significantly large drop in attendance numbers, 41 per cent drop in the last two years as shown in the chart below.
Adventure Bay attracted 184,000 guests in 2014, 128,000 in 2015, and 108,000 in 2016.
In an effort to increase attendance number the city will be spending an additional $200,000 this year to boost water park attendance numbers. Increasing marketing revenue from 4.7 per cent to 6.3 per cent.
The cities hope is that by increasing the marketing budget to attract more people to the aquatics complex attendance numbers will go up thus increasing revenue.
“the number of drop in and membership visits for the years mentioned. That said – simply listing the numbers does not always tell the whole story, especially when opening a brand new and unique facility.” Said Knights
This past family day Adventure Bay hit a record-breaking attendance rate with 3000 guest.
Adventure bay offers a numerous amount of activities for families of all ages to enjoy. Including Wave pool, Activity pool with basketball and floatable features Slides including a two-person inner tube ride, a surfing attraction, a three-person inner tube ride Lazy Rivera and much more.
A full-day pass at Adventure Bay costs between $13 and $23.Cost vary depending on the customer’s age, height and address. The cost for city residents is lower than for non-residents and there are reduced rates for morning or evening hours.
For some the cost of maintaining the aquatics complex is a reasonable price to pay for what the aquatics complex has to offer.
“The cost to up keep a new facility such as the Windsor international aquatic center is a little price to pay. The facility plays a huge part in revising the downtown core as well as bringing in more tourism rates. The building receives much more traction because of the various sporting events held there such as FINA” said Jamar Red, transportation coordinator for FINA.
The facility is continuing to cut back in their energy consumption to help reduce the cost of maintenance.
“Reducing energy use is something we are continuing to evaluate” said Knights.