OURAY – With summer just around the corner, a couple of new attractions are already making a big splash among patrons at the Ouray Hot Springs Pool.
The pool reopened last week after a brief closure for spring cleaning with a giant inflatable modular obstacle course and outsized floating orb tethered in the 5-foot section, bobbing brightly and beckoning to passers-by.
The inflatable toys are German products from a company called Wibit.
Pool manager Tom Kavanaugh said one of his priorities this summer is to spread out the volume of pool visitors to utilize more sections of the giant outdoor pool. Toward this end, he decided to try to attract more patrons to the little-used 5-foot area by adding the irresistible Wibit products.
“They have been used by other rec centers with some success,” he said.
If last weekend was any indication, the idea is working brilliantly so far. The obstacle course – it’s official name is the Aqua Track – was swarming with exuberant ‘tweens and teens and even a few adventurous grown-ups, while the floating orb (dubbed the Mini-Spinner) got so much use in its first days that it broke off its shackle and had to be sidetracked until repairs could be made. (It should be back in commission later this week, Kavanaugh said.)
Wibit makes a variety of products, many of which are modular, like the Aqua Track, and can be easily reconfigured or expanded.
“We will see how they go for the summer. If they’re popular, we might expand the obstacle course, and get another product for the deeper water,” Kavanaugh said.
The addition of the Wibits has also led to a reconfiguration of the pool’s lifeguard staff. “We have to keep constant surveillance in that area now, and for this summer we will have an extra guard on staff,” Kavanaugh explained.
But hopefully, the cost of that extra guard will more than pay for itself through boosted pool attendance. The eye-catching, brightly colored Wibits are practically irresistible and should lure in plenty of new customers. At least, that is what Kavanaugh hopes.
“So far, I’ve talked with a bunch of kids from Delta, Montrose and Grand Junction. They love it. Kids have something to do now,” (that is, in addition to two water slides which were installed years ago and now appear somewhat dated).
Next on Kavanaugh’s list, and that of a committee that has formed recently to come up with a plan for improving the Ouray Hot Springs Pool, is adding more attractions that are geared toward younger children. “It’s something that’s brought up by a lot of people,” Kavanaugh said. “The shallow section is too shallow to put a slide in. We are trying to come up with ways to turn the ‘mushroom section’ (a shallow, warm section of the pool with a mushroom-shaped fountain) into a 7-and-under area.”
One popular idea would be to put in a splash pad – an area for water play that has no standing water, alongside a zero-depth entry area to the pool where very small children and babies could sit in the water and play. But, splash pads cost a lot of money, and for this season at least, after spending $12,500 on the inflatable Wibits, there won’t be much left over for additional improvements.
For now, Wibit play at the Hot Springs Pool is pretty much a free-for-all. “We are going to let it go for another week and come up with a list of rules that will be enforceable,” Kavanaugh said.
“We don’t want anyone swimming under the structure; kids will need to move along the obstacle course in one direction only to prevent collision injuries; and there will be no head-first entries and no jumping off the slide,” at the end of the course, Kavanaugh said.
As for the Mini-Spinner, after the broken shackle incident, pool staff have concurred that no more than three people at a time will be allowed to play on it.
These rules should be posted within a couple of weeks.
“I think it will be a great summer,” Kavanaugh said. “I want to see a bunch of kids over there having fun. But at the same time, being safe.”
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