Aquatic Center has good holiday weekend, but softer numbers than last year

Matthew Lane • Jun 5, 2016 at 8:30 PM

KINGSPORT — Thousands of folks kicked off the unofficial start of summer last weekend by taking a trip to the Kingsport Aquatic Center, spending the day floating down the lazy river or letting the kids shoot down the water slides a time or two.

Though summer doesn’t technically start for a few more weeks and the outdoor water park opened in early May, the long Memorial Day weekend is typically the unofficial start of summer for many folks across the country.

School’s out, people are going on vacation and many others just want to get out of the house and enjoy a day under the sun and by the pool.

Kari Matheney, director of the KAC, said 3,400 people visited the facility during the four-day weekend. Those people were either members of the KAC, waterpark pass holders or daily admission ticket purchasers and did not include the YMCA members who came to the park.

In other words, the final tally was probably much higher.

By comparison, the facility had 3,700 visitors during the same time last year, again excluding the YMCA members’ attendance at the pools.

During the long Memorial Day weekend, the KAC reported $44,000 in revenue. This total sales figure does not include expenses, such as staffing and the cost of products. That figure is slightly down from last year’s total of $46,000 during the same holiday weekend.

“It was a pretty good weekend,” Matheney said. “Last year, every day (of the weekend) was hot and sunny, and this year Sunday was overcast and not as busy as Saturday and Monday. Those days we were slammed.”

The year the facility opened, parking was a major issue. The city had to run buses and shuttle folks from the MeadowView parking lot to the Aquatic Center until two much needed parking expansions were added to the property.

The additional spaces helped greatly, and today parking is not such an issue.

“The parking lot was packed for the water park, but there were still several available spaces in front of the Y,” Matheney said.

The crowds were good, some kids were briefly separated from their parents (and soon after reunited) and there were some long lines at the concession stand with people wanting the fried foods, which Matheney said take a little longer to prepare.

And several people were a little upset the Aquatic Center was enforcing its “no outside food or beverage” rule. Matheney said staff wanted to make sure people were not sneaking in alcohol in water bottles, as has been done in the past.

Still, one woman was found to be intoxicated at the Aquatic Center last weekend. She was asked to leave, Matheney said.

“We want to make sure we’re providing a safe, family-friendly facility.”

Beginning July 1, smoking (both traditional cigarettes and e-cigarettes) will be banned from the entire KAC/YMCA property, including the parking lot and visitors’ vehicles.

“Do I have people to walk around the parking lot and patrol people in cars? Probably not,” Matheney said. “But if the officer is here and they drive by and see it, they’ll inform the patrons they’re breaking the law.”

During the Memorial Day weekend, Matheney said she and her staff saw lots of people standing outside the facility, on the curbs, smoking cigarettes. Comments on social media have had mixed reviews, she said.

“Some people are excited that we will be banning smoking and some people are not pleased whatsoever,” Matheney said. “We’re following state law, and as of July 1, the property will be smoke free.”

The KAC is a 46,000-square-foot, climate-controlled complex with a 50-meter competition/lap pool and three springboards; a zero-entry, 25-yard warm water pool; and a leisure pool with a curvy slide and spray features. The outdoor water park includes two curvy water slides, a 900-foot lazy river, climbing structure, a water playground and concession stand.

Adjacent to the facility is the YMCA Wellmont Center — a two-story, 54,000-square-foot wellness center with fitness and exercise equipment, gymnasium, physical therapy office, a multilevel indoor playground and ChildWatch area (for pre-schoolers).