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Aquatic center helps city rec departments bottom line
Sean Lyle talks with his Lanier Aquatics students poolside Monday afternoon at the Frances Meadows Aquatic and Community Center. The swim team was sharing the pool at the center with the Flowery Branch High swim team.

In these times of economic duress, Gainesville’s Parks and Recreation Department is thanking the Frances Meadows Aquatic and Community Center for keeping its head above water.

The center’s success this year buoyed the department’s sinking revenues and even has Parks and Recreation officials considering purchases that will help the department accommodate the center’s large crowds.

Activity at the aquatic center cut the department’s projected deficit of $435,000 for the 2009 fiscal year nearly in half, said Parks and Recreation Director Melvin Cooper.

The department’s deficit now looks to be $243,000, Cooper said.

From the time the aquatic center opened in September 2008 until the end of the fiscal year in July, it brought in $100,000 more in revenue than Cooper had originally projected.

And the center’s success carried into this fiscal year, Cooper said. Already, 12 swim meets have been scheduled at the facility, at least one each month between now and February.

Nearly 70,000 people have visited the center in the past six months, said Jone Taylor, recreation division manager for the department.

In August and July alone, the center brought in nearly $200,000 — a fact that Cooper attributes to the center’s popular outdoor Splash Zone.

"As we’d always said, we felt like that the Splash Zone would be our ‘cash cow,’" Cooper said.

Attendance at the center has been such that Cooper is considering a proposal to purchase more lounge chairs and umbrellas for the outdoor Splash Zone and more tables for the concession area.

Still, Cooper said he is keeping expenditures at a minimum, because he expects other sources of revenue to continue to decline.

"I really don’t think the recession is over or the economy has gotten back on the ground," Cooper said. "...We may see continued decline in our revenues and may have to come back and may have to look at another midyear budget adjustment."

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