With this week’s warmer weather, pools across the city would usually be packed, but many of them are closed for the summer due to COVID-19. However, one of the region’s largest outdoor water parks is celebrating its opening week.
“We’re a very weather dependent business if it’s hot, people come,” Wild Water West Director of Operations Brian Rehnke said.
That’s definitely the case at Wild Water West this week as families enjoy one of the only outdoor swimming spots to open this summer.
“It’s been great the weather has been awesome, Wild Water West has been doing a great job with social distancing, keeping everybody safe, all of the chairs are spread out,” Season Pass Holder Ashley Knobloch said.
“We have way less chairs out,” Rehnke said.
While you’ll still find all of the same activities open at the water park, there are some noticeable changes to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“All of the extra sanitation spots, all the extra cleaning routines, the 6-foot distance on our concession lines and after everyone uses an inner tube we sanitize stuff, every time someone uses a deck chair we clean it,” Rehnke said.
Lines for the slides will also look a little different this year. Wild Water West is asking everyone to continue social distancing, which means keeping three open steps between the person in front of you.
“We also limited the number of inner tubes we have, so we can’t pack that full,” Rehnke said.
“Lifeguarding is a huge responsibility,” Mya Maxwell said.
Wild Water West has also added staff to help with the extra precautions.
“All of the applications came flooding in because there wasn’t a lot of places to work,” Rehnke said.
“It’s about 50 minutes, 45 miles, so it’s not too bad,” Maxwell said.
Maxwell drives from Madison everyday since the hometown pool she worked at the past few summers isn’t opening this year.
“I was worried especially when our outdoor pool didn’t open and a lot of pools in our area didn’t open so I’m really glad I could work at Wild Water West.
And the facility expects to see more visitors making those longer trips in search of an open place to enjoy the outdoors this summer.
“We knew it wouldn’t be for everyone,” Rehke said
The water park did see a significant number of its regular-season pass holders chose to push their passes to next summer, while others are very thankful to see the park open this year.
“We actually bought season passes around Christmas time, it was before the whole COVID-19 thing happened, so we were really excited to hear it was open and didn’t ruin our summer plans because we plan to spend most of our summer around here,” Knobloch said.
This year Wild Water West is opening a half-hour earlier just for season pass holders, giving them first pick of deck chairs and tables as well as helping thin out the line of people at the gates each morning.