While swim pools across the nation may continue to face lifeguard shortages, the City of Fremont expects to do swimmingly well in that regard in 2023.
“This year, we have a really full staff, which is nice to have,” said Nate Schwanke, recreation superintendent of the Fremont Parks and Recreation Department. “We have more this year than we’ve had in quite a while.”
Schwanke attributes the staffing success to good recruiting by the aquatics superintendent and a head lifeguard along with competitive wages.
At this point, the parks department has more than 40 lifeguards — fulltime, part time and substitutes — and is looking to add a couple more.
Splash Station water park, 2809 Fremont Drive, and Ronin Pool, 1777 N. Somers Ave., in Fremont are set to open on Memorial Day, Monday, May 29. The pools will close for the season on Saturday, Aug. 12.
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Splash Station hours are 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Ronin hours are noon to 7 p.m. The pools will be open seven days a week. On some days, Ronin will close early due to private parties that have rented the facility or for swim lessons.
Upward of 800 people have come in and out during a full day of operation at Splash Station, which has a capacity of about 1,800. Attendance during a couple of annual pool parties have been more than 1,000 during a two-hour period. Ronin has a capacity for 218 people and averages about 100 per day.
The daily cost for an individual is $7 at Splash Station and $4 for Ronin, but it will cost $5 for Ronin in 2024.
Schwanke said 15 lifeguards are needed per day at Splash Station and four to five at Ronin for a full day. Lifeguards must be at least 15 years old and pass Red Cross certification and lifeguard training. There are some restrictions on what 15-year-old guards can do at the pools and how late they can work, but Schwanke said it’s good to get these teens involved early so they’ll remain lifeguards throughout their high school career.
Schwanke commends Mason Moore, aquatic superintendent, and Coulter Fritz, a head lifeguard, for their recruitment efforts.
“They’ve done a lot of recruiting for us in the school, recruiting some of their friends, recruiting classmates to come and be a lifeguard for us and that’s really helped out a lot to have people who are that dedicated to your pools,” Schwanke said.
Besides Moore and Fritz’s recruiting, Schwanke attributes the full 2023 lifeguard staff to increased wages for starting lifeguards, which is intended to stay competitive with other jobs in the community.
Schwanke noted that a third of the pools nationwide have been closed due to a lack of lifeguards in the last couple of years.
“Trends have speculated, they’ll still have lifeguard shortages nationally,” Schwanke added.
The COVID-19 pandemic sank efforts of pools nationwide to recruit new lifeguards in 2020. Cities lost an entire year of training and hiring lifeguards.
Shortages continued in 2021 and 2022.
In 2022, Associated Press reported that just 10 of Omaha’s city pools would be open for half of the nine-week season due to a lifeguard shortage. The other five were closed.
Schwanke said Omaha, Lincoln and Council Bluffs, Iowa, all saw lifeguard shortages that affected their hours of operation. This year — because those cities are still recruiting — it’s uncertain what their lifeguard numbers will be, he said.
The pandemic did affect Fremont pools in 2020. Splash Station was closed that year and Ronin Pool had restricted hours. The pool relied on lifeguards who’d previously worked for the city and no new ones were hired.
“It was a full cycle of not hiring new lifeguards,” Schwanke said.
The local pools were still fully staffed in 2021, but there weren’t as many lifeguards as they’d had in the past and Schwanke said they would have liked a few more.
Numbers have improved the last two years.
“We haven’t had — over the past couple of years — the deficit we’ve seen in our area,” Schwanke said. “Last year, we were able to have a full staff and kids weren’t having to work as long of hours. We were able to have a good number of staff.”
This year, the pools have a full complement of staff, he said.
Schwanke appreciates the staff and looks forward to the summer season.
“I think we have a really good staff in place and we’ve done some things to try to retain staff and really work on keeping a good, incoming class and doing that recruiting has really helped out,” he said.
Anyone looking for more information about Splash Station or Ronin Pool can find it on the fremontne.gov website by clicking on the parks and recreation icon and the City of Fremont Parks and Recreation Facebook page. An informational brochure is posted on both sites along with upcoming events and schedule changes.