Seeking swimmers

After getting a late start, Newton Recreation leaders say they worked hard to attract swimmers to the city's pool.

Those efforts produced modest results.

During summer 2011, the pool posted an average daily attendance of 32 swimmers from the general public, while 10 day camps frequented the facility during the three months it was open.

In June, attendance totaled 631, a number that includes repeat visitors. In June 2009 — the last summer the pool was open — that attendance number was 1,826.

"I think we had a good summer considering the economic conditions," Newton Recreation Director Sandra Waters said, adding swimming pool attendance was down at municipalities statewide, including Lenoir, Morganton and Asheville. "I think it was a good year considering we were closed the year before."

To encourage summer pool attendance, Newton Recreation sent out 5,500 flyers to 108 daycares, five Newton-Conover City schools and four Catawba County schools.

"We do not know if the children and/or parents received them," Waters reported to Newton City Council.

New programs were also created to encourage swimming.

"We brought back lap swimming, and we tried swimming lessons," Waters said. "We had a pool splash bash. We added this summer water aerobics and that went real well."

Water aerobics attracted 27 participants, and Waters said those swimmers "didn't want to stop." Sixty swimmers visited the pool during a July 4 "Splash Bash" that featured games and contests.

The pool attempted to offer five different sessions of swimming lessons, but only four children registered for the courses so they were cancelled, she said.

"Next summer we will offer it again, and we may have more interest," she said, adding the pool even offered night swimming for those who couldn't get to the pool before it closed at 6 p.m. "It didn't seem to go real strong."

No additional swimmers came to the pool after 6 p.m., she said.

"I would like to see the city give that pool a full season with advanced notice to the recreation department," said Newton Mayor Robert Mullinax, who isn't seeking re-election in November. "It opened this year with the hope of keeping it going and the Council hopes to have a continued dialogue about what is best for the pool and how we can best utilize it. The staff is going to be expected to make some recommendations."

However, without increases in attendance, the pool's future may be uncertain.

"I don't think we need to be throwing more money into (the pool) if we can't get attendance up," said Newton Mayor Pro Tem Anne Stedman.

"There are other things we can do with that money. We could make a splash park everybody could enjoy."