Aurora’s Phillips Park Aquatic Center won’t be open for summer season due to shortage of lifeguards – Chicago Tribune

Due to staffing issues, including a shortage of lifeguards, the Phillips Park Family Aquatic Center in Aurora will be closed for the summer season, Fox Valley Park district officials announced Wednesday.

The Splash Country water park and the Vaughan Athletic Center indoor water park in Aurora will remain open, according to district officials.

Officials said the district will not be opening the Phillips Park Family Aquatic Center “due to the shortage of national lifeguards and the current work climate.”

In a district press release, Jaime Ijams, director of recreation, said a report by the American Lifeguard Association predicted that “at least one-third of public swimming pools in the United States are at risk of closing or changing hours to adapt to the impending summer. lack of staff. »

“The trend has been in this direction for a few years, and our hope was to at least flatten the curve, if not reverse it a bit here locally,” Ijams said. “Our staff have never worked so hard to recruit new team members. We hosted our own career fair, attended others throughout the Fox Valley, and visited area high schools to highlight all the benefits of being a lifeguard.

Fox Valley Park District Executive Director Jim Pilmer said the district “tried to get ahead” of the hiring issue as soon as it could.

“We just don’t have the staff to staff it (the Phillips Park center) and we saw that trend last year,” Pilmer said.

He said “throughout the off-season we recruited” new staff members.

“We came out early ahead of this path and we still can’t fill all the summer jobs,” he said.

As an example, Pilmer noted that last week the district “had 250 applicants while we were at high school job fairs and we got six serious inquiries from all of these people who are looking for to go to the next level for training”.

Pilmer said the sheer size and specific training required of lifeguards makes it difficult to hire quality people.

“It’s very regulated as it should be. I can’t stress this enough – lifeguarding today involves going through a lot of regulations. It’s a skill set that comes with a lot of discipline. You just don’t sign up to be a lifeguard,” he said. “There is training involved and those are all the certifications. About three years ago we started certifying all of our lifeguards and paying for their certifications. We paid them to get certified.

Pilmer said those certification requirements are also taken into account when determining which facilities will remain open this year.

“What’s interesting this year – our staff’s decision to use Splash Country is that it doesn’t have a deep well, which requires additional certification for your rescuers to perform a deep water rescue,” did he declare. “It’s very regulated, which it should be and sometimes when young people find out about responsibility, they maybe decide this isn’t the gig for me.”

In the press release, Ijams said staffing needs are impacting the schedule this summer.

“A total of 160 lifeguards are needed to operate all three facilities simultaneously, along with more than 70 additional staff to support other areas, such as admissions, swimming lessons, slide attendants, managers and counselors. camp, in outdoor water parks,” Ijams mentioned. “Ideally, we needed to have around 90% staff at this point to recruit and train new team members, and we fell short of that target.

“Given the current hiring market and what we’ve seen over the past three months of our recruitment drive, we’ve had to adjust our summer schedule,” she said.

Pilmer said that instead of trying to run the Phillips Park Family Aquatic Center and Splash Country “halfway through, one facility (Splash Country) is fully open.”

Season passes have been offered to Splash Country or Phillips Park Family Aquatic Center this season. Anyone who has purchased a season pass at Phillips Park will have it automatically transferred to Splash Country, Fox Valley Park District officials said.

Phillips Park season pass holders can also request a full refund, provided the request is received by June 6. To request a refund, email [email protected]

Splash Country Water Park will be open May 28-30 for Memorial Day weekend before the full season opens on June 4. The park will be open daily until August 7. The water park will then transition to weekends only on August 13. -14, 20-21, 27-28 and 3-5 Sept.

David Sharos is a freelance journalist for The Beacon-News.

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