Water Park changes have users concerned

Users of the water park in the Gallagher Centre have been left with concerns about the City's approved changes to the admission system.

In a letter sent to Yorkton This Week, several users of the water park said, "Despite many objecting to the new changes, city council decided to continue and implement the changes."

The new system will see users able to buy Park Passes (prices listed in table below) and single-use passes ranging from $4.50 to $8.

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AGE 10x 20x 50x 100x
Child (3 to 6 years) $40 $70 $155 $265
Youth (7 to 17 years) $45 $85 $180 $310
Adult 18+ $72 $128 $280 $480

A year pass for adults under the old system costs $475, allowing swimmers access for one calendar year for access for $47.50 per month.

"If you want to swim more than twice per week, you have to purchase additional passes. Under the previous system, it was cheaper for drop-in or casual user swimmers to buy a ten pack than buy a monthly membership," the letter stated. "Under this proposal, patrons that use the pool the least will pay considerably less per swim if they choose and can afford the $480 upfront cost."

An example would be previously, if someone wanted to swim twice a week (104 times total), under the old system, they would pay $475; under the new system, they would at least pay $512, an increase of $37.

"Who is being penalized under this new system? Those who can least afford it, the people who now purchase monthly passes and can not afford $480 out of pocket for a 100 punch pass. Those who, because of their age or the state of their health, do not want to have a $480 commitment and would rather buy each month. Anyone swimming more than twice per week, couples who both swim and attend more than twice per week now face double the increase."

Another problem for the users is that the lack of a senior pass or discount, like many other aquatic centres, has in similar size areas such as Swift Current, North Battleford, and even a bigger centre like Regina provides seniors with a discount.

"Many can not or will not pay more than twice what they are now. Some will simply attend less, even to the detriment of their health. Did we not build this facility to be used, or is it the new mandate to encourage it to be used less? Do we want our seniors to stay healthy or minimize their activities? So if the casual user pays less and regular swimmers are financially forced to swim less, who makes up the shortfall? How much will this increase revenue?"

Yorkton Mayor Mitch Hippsley said that he understands the users' concerns, but they needed to change the way people pay to make sure the Gallagher Centre and the water park can be sustainable.

"Our biggest motivator was COVID itself. Because of health regulation protocol, we had to follow their rules, and that met limited numbers of people that could be taking the class at one given time, and then we were cutting back on costs on everything," he said. "The cost of running the Gallagher Centre seems to be going up every year with COVID, and we just needed to take a good hard look at everything. The operating costs of the Gallagher Centre are the highest relative to the other amenities in the City. It needed a careful redesign."

He said that they chose the 'Pay Pass' system because he felt it was the best fit for what they were looking for.

"We wanted a user-pay system because the tax-payers were basically offsetting the cost of the operations of the pool, so we were kind of out of line as to how low we were charging," he said. "It was fantastic for a person who bought an annual pass, but it wasn't realistic to our costs. It was time to redesign our cost system, and I know it affected people, and that is never good because no one wants to pay anymore than they need to, and some people just simply can't."

In terms of some of the other concerns, Hippsley said they are working on fixes.

"I am actually working on that (seniors discount), but we haven't got an answer yet. I do think we should do something for our seniors," he said. "They are the reason that we are here. They build this land, and my heart goes out to seniors, and I always want to see how we can help."

For problems with the upfront cost of a pass, he said that it's a system problem.

"Our software system doesn't do automatic withdrawals from people's accounts. If we can put that into our software system, we will definitely look at that. We understand lots of people don't have $480, for example, ready to go, so if we can figure this out, upgrade it, we will, but as it stands right now, we don't have this system in place."

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