SIOUX CITY | The number of people attending open swim at Sioux City's public pools dropped by nearly 3,000 since the same time last year, according to parks department data.
But, with two fewer pools open and several stretches of sizzling weather, each of the three remaining public pools have posted higher individual attendance numbers than they had the year before.
The data are the first glimpse of how city pool users have responded to the city's closure of Leeds and Cook pools at the end of the 2016 swimming season.
As of July 25, open swim attendance at the Riverside, Leif Erikson and Lewis pools totaled 43,730. Last year at the same date, overall attendance at the city's five pools had been 46,526. Those numbers do not take into account swimming lessons, free Friday night swims or private rentals.
Lewis and Leif Erikson pools closed for the season Sunday. Riverside Aquatic Center will remain open until Aug. 20. Pool hours are 1 to 7 p.m.
City recreation supervisor Eric Griffith said some overall decline was expected, but he noted that attendance at the three pools had increased by nearly 6,000 through July 25. Riverside Pool's attendance rose from about 18,400 in July 2016 to about 20,700 in July 2017, Leif Erikson's increased from 10,800 to 12,500, and Lewis's rose from 8,500 to 10,400.
Griffith said this likely indicates some people who had pools near their homes are making the longer trip to another city pool.
"We expected our attendance to go down a little bit because we don't have five pools, but as you can see, we have more people attending Riverside, Leif Erikson and Lewis pools," he said.
Parks and Recreation director Matt Salvatore agreed, adding that the addition of a popular splash pad in Leeds Park this year is likely benefiting more people than the pool at Carlin Park in Leeds had at the time.
"We just kind of gauge it from what we observe when we go by, and I can tell you the number of people that use the Leeds splash pad are exponentially higher than what used the Leeds Pool," he said. "We are serving more people through the combination of splash pads and pools than we did with just pools."
Griffith and Salvatore also credited a hot June and July for the strong numbers. According to the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls, Sioux City saw 13 days of 90-plus degree weather in June and 16 such days in July. The average highs in June and July registered at 5 and 4 degrees above normal, respectively.
"When we started off the first week of the season, four of the seven days were at 90 degrees. We don’t usually hit that until mid-to-late July," Griffith said.
Riverside manager Ashley Peck said Thursday the aquatic center has seen a felt increase in traffic this summer, although some spurts of the season were more on and off. She said she believes the month of July brought out the largest crowds.
"For the most part, we've had good attendance with the dry days," she said. "Even on the rainy days, people have been coming out."
The city shuttered Cook Pool in Cook Park and Leeds Pool in Carlin Park a year ago after deciding to shut down the two with the lowest attendance. As replacement water amenities, the city has added a splash pad in Leeds Park on the northside and plans to add one in Cook Park next year.
The closures were the first step in a move toward a quality-over-quantity approach to its aquatics operations. Long-term goals for the city include consolidating all pool services at two aquatic centers: the current Riverside location and a proposed $8.5 million regional aquatic center in Morningside envisioned east of IBP Ice Center, which will replace Lewis pool.
The city also plans to close Leif Erikson once its infrastructure fails, and replace it with a splash pad.