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story.lead_photo.caption LYNN KUTTER ENTERPRISE-LEADER Prairie Grove Aquatic Center will open June 8 with restrictions, according to city officials. Prep work to get the pool ready for the summer began this week.

PRAIRIE GROVE -- Prairie Grove Aquatic Park will open June 8, and pool staff this year will include a "D 'n D" rotating crew, those with the job to disinfect areas outside the pool and remind patrons to distance themselves from others.

Mayor Sonny Hudson said he gave the OK for the pool to open with restrictions in place as directed by the Arkansas Department of Health to respond to covid-19.

"With it being allowed and with all the safety features, I said let's go ahead and plan on it," Hudson said. "If between now and then there's a reason to abort it, we will."

Hudson noted many folks in the community want the pool to open, as well as staff who worked at the aquatic park last year.

"You have to make a decision because it takes a ways to get it ready," Hudson said. "We're making a decision for a month away. A decision had to be made. If we waited much longer, you'd just have to forget it because you couldn't get it ready."

Larry Oelrich, director of administrative services and public works, said Prairie Grove's pool will open the same day as Springdale's aquatic center. The city of Fayetteville has not announced a decision yet.

Admission fees will remain the same: $5 per person, $4 fee for seniors 60 and over and children under 5 years of age. Since the pool is opening later than usual, the aquatic park will not sell season passes this year. Hours will be 12-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 1-6 p.m. Sunday.

The health department is allowing pools to open with 50% capacity and many other restrictions in place. For Prairie Grove, that means the pool can have a maximum capacity of 277 at any one time, Oelrich said.

Looking back over attendance from the past two summers, Oelrich said average attendance has been around 290 people. The maximum allowed will affect Prairie Grove by about 25 patrons per day over the course of the summer, Oelrich said.

Other changes for the summer include no swimming lessons and no private parties. Lap swimming and water aerobics will go on as before. Water aerobics will probably be limited to 15 people.

The concession stand will only serve drinks and pre-packaged snacks. Hot foods such as nachos and hot dogs will not be available this summer.

Oelrich said the restrictions in place will affect the city financially but he is looking for ways to cut costs. For one, he said the pool will have about 30 employees, about 25% fewer than normal.

He's already had one meeting with his supervisors and said he realizes he'll have to "pound it in their heads" that they must distance themselves from others.

"Kids, they just don't get it," Oelrich said. "They were standing arm in arm and hugging each other."

Oelrich said it will be a challenge but he's confident "it's a challenge we can meet."

The "disinfecting and distancing" staff will walk around with spray bottles of disinfectant to clean as patrons leave and will monitor lines and distancing. Restrooms will be cleaned every hour.

The staff probably will remove about one-half of the lounge chairs for proper spacing. Family groups will be able to sit together.

Oelrich said he's not sure how to handle groups of kids sitting together at the tables.

"If it is a small group, I'll probably not get too excited about it," he said.

Patrons coming into the park will be asked a few screening questions and asked to provide names and phone numbers for contact monitoring, if necessary. New signs will be posted on the outside and inside of the park to remind patrons of restrictions and safety precautions because of covid-19.

Oelrich said the office staff will have to count as people come into the pool and also count as people leave the pool, in case others are waiting to come inside.

"It's going to be less work for the concession workers, more work for administrative staff and more for the lifeguards to some extent," Oelrich said.

The city has a list of things to do to be ready for the opening, including hiring staff, certifying and recertifying lifeguards, cleaning and prepping the pool, ordering and installing signs, training and getting the pumps ready and the chemical equipment installed.

General News on 05/20/2020

Print Headline: Prairie Grove Pool Set To Open June 8

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