Wild Waterworks will stay closed for the rest of the year, citing COVID-19 expenses
Councillors say it's too hard to keep a two-metre distance from people in a wave pool
Hamilton's Wild Waterworks will stay closed for the rest of the year because it would cost more to reopen it in the COVID-19 era than it will to keep it shuttered.
City council agreed with the Hamilton Conservation Authority (HCA) Wednesday that it makes more sense to keep the doors closed. The vote came after HCA said it would cost $425,000 to stay closed for the 2020 season, but reopening with physical distancing measures would cost as much as $2.63 million.
Attendance would be lower this season anyway, said Lisa Burnside, HCA's CAO, and Wild Waterworks needs 100,000 visitors per year to turn a profit. It takes six weeks to prepare for reopening, and at this point, Wild Waterworks has already lost part of the season.
Reopening would also require physical distancing measures, and paying for more sanitation and personal protective equipment. It's too difficult, councillors said, to keep a two-metre distance in a wave pool.
The decision means not hiring 150 seasonal workers, Burnside said. The park's three full-time staff and three contract staff will do preventative maintenance, and Wild Waterworks will do some capital upgrades while the park is closed.
"This was a difficult recommendation to make," Burnside said. "I believe this is the first time in our operational history."
The move dates back to March, when the province issued an emergency order closing pools, beaches, sports fields, playgrounds and other outdoor recreational amenities. On April 24, the HCA, which operates the park for the city, wrote to the city saying the best move would be for Wild Waterworks to remain closed in 2020.
Councillors weren't happy with the decision either, but agreed it was necessary.
"There are too many logistical issues to overcome," said Chad Collins, Ward 5 (Centennial) councillor.
This is the first of many such decisions council will have to make, said Coun. Brad Clark of Ward 9 (upper Stoney Creek).
"We will be hard pressed to open any of those facilities if you have to stay two metres apart from your neighbour," he said. "I think we need to be honest with residents, and upfront with residents. It's going to be very challenging to open up those facilities with that protocol still in place."
The closure wouldn't impact other aspects of Confederation Beach Park, including the opening of Lakeland pool.
The report recommends the $425,000 come from the city's tax stabilization reserve, which is designed to prevent taxes from skyrocketing when emergency measures are needed. The reserve, which has about $20.5 million in it, already stands to take a beating as the city faces a $22.8 million budget shortfall because of COVID-19.