A new partnership will enable the city of Colorado Springs to keep the Aquatic and Fitness Center at Memorial Park and the Wilson Ranch and Portal outdoor pools open this year. But the Monument Valley and Valley Hi outdoor pools and the Prospect Lake swimming area, which serve the city’s lower-income neighborhoods, will remain closed.

The city announced Thursday it had signed an agreement with the Colorado Springs Swim School to operate an indoor pool and two outdoor pools for five years, with the option to renew for three additional five-year terms.

“We knew that the only way we could keep them open was not through the finances of the city, but … to find some partners,” Paul Butcher, director of city Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services, said during a news conference Thursday at Wilson Ranch Pool.

“Partnerships is a key word for us right now,” he added.

The Wilson Ranch and Portal pools are scheduled to open May 29, and the Aquatic and Fitness Center will open around Sept. 1.

Admission at the outdoor pools will increase from $7 to $8 for adults and from $4 to $6 for youth and seniors. At the aquatic center, admission will rise from $7 to $12 for adults and double to $8 for youth and seniors.
Other fees, such as for swim lessons, birthday parties and pool rentals, also will go up.

The agreement calls for the swim school to pay the city $10,000 a year to manage the pools, which will still be owned by the city. The swim school is owed by Tina Dessart, who has taught and coached swimming for more than 20 years, and was started in 1992.

Kevin Dessart said he and his wife returned from a trip and learned from a 10 o'clock news report that city pools were on the chopping block because of budget cuts.

“I just said, ‘Holy cow. We can’t let this happen,’” Kevin Dessart said. “We’ve lived here for 10 years, and we moved here because this is where we wanted to live…Hearing that the pools were going to close was just like, ‘We have to figure something out.’” 

If the swim school’s annual net profits from operating the city pools reach $500,000, the city will receive 2 percent of those profits. Another 3 percent will go to a swimming foundation for scholarships for people who can’t afford to pay to swim at the pools.

“We were losing $1 million a year operating our aquatics facilities year after year after year, so we feel a profit sharing, even at $10,000 a year, is very, very fair,” Butcher said.

The city will continue to operate the Cottonwood Creek Recreation Center and pool, located near Briargate in northern Colorado Springs, because it is projected to “break even,” Butcher said.

“It has the ability for expenses to meet revenues for this year,” he said. “Part of it was because of some retirements and the savings from those retirements.”

The decision to keep the Monument Valley and Valley Hi pools and the Prospect Lake beach/swim area closed this year was strictly financial, Butcher said.

“Their expenditures don’t meet their revenues,” he said.

Kevin Dessart said all the city pools didn’t fit into the swim club’s business plan.

“We need to make this work for the swim school. We need to make this work for the community, so I’d rather be able to do a little bit than to gobble them all up and try to figure that out…I want to set the swim school and the community up for success so that these pools are open year to year to year.”