No open swim at Furman Aquatic Center this Memorial Day weekend as staff shortage dampens plans

Ronna Faaborg
Ames Tribune
Furman Aquatic Center in Ames will be open for limited activities this Memorial Day weekend due to staffing shortages.

Furman Aquatic Center would normally open for the season on Saturday, but staffing shortages are causing the pool to have severely limited availability over Memorial Day weekend, including no open swim.

“We know this announcement will be disappointing to our swimmers who look forward to this day with anticipation,” Parks and Recreation Director Keith Abraham said in a news release. “Despite our extensive efforts to recruit and train employees, we did not reach the state-mandated safety requirements to open the facility this weekend. That news is disappointing to us as well.

"Because safety remains our No. 1 priority, we can’t open without meeting the staffing minimums.”

Saturday, the Furman center will be open for long course lap swimming from 7 to 10 a.m.

On both Saturday and Sunday, the pool will be open for water walking and adult lap swim from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The schedule for Monday through June 5 will be posted on the city’s website, amesparkrec.org, and Furman Aquatic Center’s social media pages.

Testing for deep-water wristbands will be conducted from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. There is no cost for admission for kids to take this test, and testers will need to leave the pool after their exams are completed.

This year, the testing for deep-water bands will not be available during open swim sessions. To enter the deep water, kids who are 12 and under must attend and pass a testing session.

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It’s historically been a challenge to staff the aquatics center, according to the release, but this season saw a “significant decrease in applicants.”

The decrease caused the Parks and Recreation Department to get creative with its recruiting, which included attending job fairs, doing media interviews, and using social media, newsletters, facility signs and yard signs.

Wages have increased, and certification is offered at no cost to potential staff members. The aquatics center offers flexible scheduling.

The department also targeted nontraditional swimming pool employees, including teachers and retirees.

“These efforts did create more applicants, but many of them needed to successfully complete lifeguard or slide attendant training prior to working," Abraham said in the release. "Unfortunately, not all our new employees have completed their certifications. They are close, but not able to work this weekend. We continue to hire and train new employees, and we encourage anyone interested to apply.”

Lifeguards are a position that Furman needs, and more lifeguard training is being planned. Part of the training is online and part is in-person, taking about 27 hours to complete. There’s no fee for the training for any City of Ames employee.

Furman also needs slide attendants, which is a position that requires a four-hour First Aid/CPR/AED certification. Those classes are provided by the city.

Applicants must be at least 15 years old to be lifeguards and 16 to be water slide attendants.

There is also a need for swim instructors, and applicants must be at least 15.

The pool staffing shortage is not a problem unique to Ames. Statewide and nationwide, aquatics centers face staffing challenges.

Other Iowa communities have been forced to consolidate operations and open fewer facilities and/or consider reducing hours of operation for the season due to projected staffing shortages, Abraham said in the release.

For more information about applying for a job at the Furman Aquatic Center, visit www.cityofames.org/jobs.