By MARK EVANS
Brad Arnold, executive director of the Ste. Genevieve County Community Center, reflected on the difficulty of planning for 2020-21 in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and also on the River Rapids Waterpark’s 2020 season.
The waterpark was open 38 days during an abbreviated 2019 season, following its completion. This year, it managed to get in exactly twice the number of days – 76.
Without crowd restrictions the park had averaged 770 people a day in 2019. With a 50 percent capacity limit set on it by the county health department in 2020, thew park averaged its maximum 600 people per day, for 45,598 people.
“All things considered, I’m pleased,” Arnold said.
He noted that on 10 of those 76 days the park had to close early, due to bad weather.
“We covered our expenses,” Arnold said. “It’s hard to measure success, but covering expenses was one of our biggest goals.”
First District Commissioner Randy Bahr asked if customers had to be turned away, due to the restrictions.
Arnold said that frequently, people had to stand outside in the hot sun, waiting for enough people to leave to allow them to enter. Many of those wound up leaving and not returning, Arnold said.
Arnold would love to see what kind of numbers thew facility could produce in a “normal” year. He pointed out that it basically got in one-third of a season in 2019 and two-thirds of a season this year. The two years, therefore have actually equaled only one season of operation, he said.
He hopes to see some full seasons take place, while the facility is still in pristine condition.
“You only have a finite number of years before you have to putting money into it,” Arnold said. Usually, this type of facility will enjoy about five years full profits, before the infrastructure begins to age and starts needing constant maintenance.
Arnold also pointed out that about 125 people – mainly high school and college students – were able to get good part-time jobs at the park. Giving those young people a change to learn responsibility and earn some money is something else he considers important.
“That’s 125 paying jobs and you still came out in the black,” Presiding Commissioner Garry Nelson said. “That’s good.”
Arnold suggested that possibly 100 or so of the students would otherwise not have had summer jobs.
He also argued that they were successful in following health department guidelines and keeping people safe. Although numbers of cases have jumped this summer and fall, Arnold said only three cases were connected to the waterpark, out of some 50,000 people who used it.