Decatur Pool Admissions Increased 24% Last Year, Prompting Overcrowding Concerns

Probably the most interesting conversation at the Decatur City Commission meeting last night came about as the $151,750 annual contract with Dynamo Pool Services for the 2012 pool season.

The report from Active Living’s Jabari Cole noted that the pools took in a little more than $163,000 this past year from pool admissions fees.  This was actually $12,000 over the amount of last year’s contract with Dynamo, meaning the pools actually MADE money this past year, which according to City Manager Peggy Merriss is nearly unheard of in the world of city pool budgeting.  According to a comment from Mr. Cole, 65% is usually seen as a good return on pool funding.

That’s the good news.  The other side of the coin?

The pools are at capacity most of the year, especially at McKoy.  “I’m getting comments from citizens of Decatur that the pools are too crowded.”, Mr. Cole said at the meeting. He continued to confirm commissioner’s stated concerns, agreeing that “lots of people coming from outside the city to use our schools.”

Look for this issue to come up again soon, as both city staff and the commissioners were obviously quite concerned about overcrowding at Decatur’s public pools in the coming year.  Mr. Cole mentioned the lack of a price difference for daily passes for residents and non-residents, but worried about any sort of “enforcement”.

It looks like Decatur’s pools seem to be suffering the same fate of its popular school system.  Except they’re making some money in the process.

61 thoughts on “Decatur Pool Admissions Increased 24% Last Year, Prompting Overcrowding Concerns”


  1. I bet there would be even more revenue if the people who operate the desks consistently collected appropriate fees from non-residents.

    1. As I understood it from the explanation last night, there isn’t a different daily fee for non-residents. The only different fee is for the season pass. Is that what you’re referring to?

      1. There used to be a different daily fee. I admittedly didn’t go much last year because of little Nell’s health. I know in the past nonresidents had a different daily fee and I never saw the kids at the counters asking for IDs or anything.

        I guess that changed! It actually makes sense- this way it is controlled more. I am just being the morning grinch anyway 🙂

      2. Actually, it is true that many non-residents get pool season passes at the reduced city resident rate. I’m pretty sure the pool staff currently offer the resident rate to anyone with a ‘30030’ zip code on their driver’s license, which as we all know includes many addresses outside the city limits. Although I would never report them and would be very sad if they could no longer meet us at the pools, I know of many non-resident families that take advantage of the reduced rate and go to the pools almost daily. It does irk me a tiny bit since we pay the higher city taxes and seemingly get no benefit from it in regards to pool admissions. And it is true that the pools are becoming very crowded. I’ve noticed a huge increase in recent years, and we’re considering joining a private pool for this reason (among others).

        Honestly, I don’t understood why it would be so hard to consult the list of actual city addresses to determine resident/non-resident rates, especially for season pass purchases. The detailed list is available on the CSD website.

        1. There are a limited number of addresses outside the City with 30030, mainly in the Medlock area. I don’t imagine it’s more than a few hundred or so.

          1. There’s a few in those condos and apartments on the brief stretch of Clairemont right before it hits N. Decatur, around the Emory Credit Union.

          2. I can’t find the link, but I’m pretty sure I’ve read on this website that nearly a quarter of 30030 addresses are outside the city limits. It also includes areas between Decatur and Avondale.

            At any rate, it’s more just the principle of the matter to me. Why have different rates if you don’t plan to use reasonable efforts to enforce them?

            1. Type 30030 into Google maps. Any areas that have a 30030 zip and are outside of the City are extremely limited. It couldn’t be enough of a problem at the pools where people are trying to get in at a reduced rate to have the employees spend a whole lot of time dealing with it.

              1. Hmm. I just did that and I’m surprised how much wider 30030 borders are compared to the narrower City of Decatur. A bunch of stuff near Fernbank, North Decatur road (including part of Suburban Plaza!), parts of Avondale, and down towards Belvedere Park are included. IF googlemaps really plots 30030 accurately. I wouldn’t know.

                1. (Not that I think it makes a big difference in pool attendance but it just surprises me since I tend rely on 30030=COD).

  2. I don’t know what we pay per household in taxes to support the pools. It would seem fair to me to see the rate for non-residents be increased and enforced so that they pay a share a least proportionate to the resident entry fee plus tax if not more. If it’s a way Decatur can earn money from non residents, let it go to help pay off some of the bonds.

    As to McKoy being crowded, didn’t the City built smallest/cheapest plan instead of what the planning committee recommended? Are we surprised by capacity crowds?
    Are the guards turning people away when a pool reaches capacity?

    1. Yes, we’ve been turned away before when McKoy was at capacity. Don’t know if that’s regularly or consistently enforced, but I understand the need to control the max cap for safety (and lifeguards’ sanity.)

    2. I’m pretty sure the McCoy pool size and design was actually a direct result of the planning committee. A committee member told me that the final result was in line with the old adage about how a camel is a horse designed by committee.

      1. Tee, that’s interesting. I am remembering — or think I am anyhow! 🙂 — some very disappointed committee members saying that after all that work, the person at the city discarded the recommendations and just went with what was cheapest.

        Doesn’t really matter now; what matters is how to manage what we do have. I’d like the pool to be managed so that it benefits the residents most.

        1. I distinctly remember hearing the same thing from at least one person who worked very hard on that planning committee. And I know a lot of people in the neighborhood were stunned, and not in a good way, by the final design.

    3. The McKoy pool was designed exactly the way the committee proposed it, which is why it is virtually useless to most people. The committee wanted it to be a dual function pool, hence the odd shape with a lap lane, kiddie pool, graded entry, etc.

      If they just wanted to do it cheap, they would have just designed a square box like most pools. I think this pool actually set us back a couple of million or so.

    4. Yes, that pool is far too small. It’s really a shame. Think of all those toddlers when they’re 12 at that pool …

      1. the pool at ebster is designed for older kids and i believe it is not as frequented as mckoy or glenlake. we’ve taken our boys there and it has never been crowded plus they have a coveted diving board. it isn’t an option if you have young kids or inexperienced swimmers (no steps…only ladders) but it is a great pool for the older kids/experienced swimmers.

        1. +1 on Ebster, but I stopped taking my kids because the lifeguards were just too strict about pool toys. (I’ve vented this before). No foam floaties, no water sprayers, no balls, no dive sticks, etc. allowed. It’s too bad because that large pool has so much potential. I guess I could understand no water guns, but what’s the harm in throwing a ball around – especially if people can be careful and safe? lifeguard rudely explained that “stuff gets caught in the filters.” I might could understand that with something like fuzzy tennis balls, but putting out a blanket rule of “no toys” seems a bit over the top. Counter: “if we let you have one thing then we have to let everything” Eh – not so much. I don’t buy that.

          I hope that crew of lifeguards has moved on and plan to go back this year if they can relax the rules to a more sensible level.

          Wow – talk about 1st world problems – eh?

          1. I think public pools have to be strict so as to meet the needs of all users and to avoid even an hint of unfairness in enforcement. Even though we use Glenlake and Ebster occasionally, we are members of Venetian Pools, a private community pool that has less rules. I can tell you that one of my children, when young, was terrified of the balls being thrown around by older children there, even though there was no danger whatsoever. So I would vote yes on foam kickboards and noodles and other floaties but no on balls and other things that are thrown. I wonder if the concern about foam floating devices is the fear that a small child could be in trouble beneath one without anyone noticing.

            1. True – and they can always play the “safety” card. Venetian One Percenters are lucky to have more flexibility. (Although maybe stop drinking for a minute and tell the big kids to stop scaring the little ones!)

              – guy who should just stop whining and remember that its a pool with a diving board so just be happy already.

                1. 🙂 Thx. Just a little jab at my rich (mostly) North Decatur friends. The real one percenters are all over at that SALTWATER pool in Lake Claire…

              1. Is that the image of Venetian out there?–that the members are lushes, not watching their children? 🙂 I find that the social scene is more about barbecue skills and whether your kids can swim independently or you have to sit at the edge of the pool watching. It’s definitely not Druid Hills Country Club. Actually some of us join for lap swimming, kids’ swim team, walkability, and the shade (umbrellas and trees). The big competition at Venetian isn’t social but whether one sides with advocates for more afternoon swim team practice or more afternoon lap swimming. My only beef with city pools is that it’s hard to watch kids (who can stay for hours) comfortably because there’s no shade, plus the adult lap swimming opportunities are limited. If there was more shade, I probably would have just done city pools for kid time and YMCA for laps. My only beef with the Emory Clairmont facility is that it’s not walkable and has no shade.

                1. P.S.: The tropical drinks are in non-breakable containers and do not have little paper umbrellas in them. Actually, no liquor is sold on premises and the snack bar is quite basic–microwave hot dogs, corn dogs, and pizza, plus cheap ice cream and junk food. The good food is what’s brought in picnic baskets and coolers. Sort of Jones Beach-ish for those who’ve gone to public beaches on Long Island. Not Fairfield Beach, Connecticut-ish.

                  1. “no liquor is sold on premises”. Fix that and you’ll be able to double your fees and have a 10 year wait list!

                    And no – I doubt the view is that Venetianers don’t watch their kids. Lushes? Nah. No more so than any of the rest of greater #DecaturGA

            1. Nope. Nor are they courteous of the people around them who may just want to relax and catch some rays…

              So yeah, gotta play to the least common denominator, I guess.

  3. We must enforce the price difference between city & non-city residents as well as raise prices for non residents. In most cities & counties it is double for non residents. Our taxes paid for them so why not have others pay their share

  4. I can see enforcing a higher rate for annual passes for non-residents. On the day pass, it seems like the most we can do is rely on the honesty of the pool-goer. Having the people who man the desk try to authenticate residency seems to me to be a recipe for disaster (unless we all want to get a “City Resident” tattoo)

      1. “There’s a bathing suit for that.”

        But how about something city issued like a key chain or rubber bracelet? We could make bracelets or whatever available at city hall and other places where it is possible to check residency, and give a resident “discount” on daily admission for wearing the bracelet. Some cheating to be expected but might help.

            1. I’m in! I’ve already mentioned on a past thread wanting to microchip my children as they started to freerange themselves and some folks jumped all over me. But now you all are beginning to see the many uses of microchipping people. If we have to provide an ID to vote, why not a microchip to swim?

    1. Yup, the ramifications of the last decade’s Great Decatur Kiddie Explosion are moving beyond school enrollment to pool attendance! Where should the next pools go? The NW and SE ends of Decatur are looking pretty city pool-less.

      1. Problem with Venetian for Decaturites is that it draws not just from the population boom in Decatur but also residents in Fernbank area, Candler Park, Inman Park, Druid Hills, Morningside, etc. I thought the 4-year wait several years ago was incredible but it’s only gotten worse. Plus the price of joining has gone up and the joining fee is no longer redeemable upon departure. It’s a wonderful place but cannot expand as a neighborhood facility.

        Where would we put new neighborhood pools if we needed them in Decatur? Where is there potential public space? Westchester? By the East Decatur developments? Anyone have a big pool in their backyard that they are tired of maintaining?!

          1. Something that has discouraged me since I moved here and why you do not find me at Lakes Lanier or Alatoona: natural bodies of water in the South have snakes in them! Sometimes alligators too!

            1. AHID, not to scare you, but snakes have been known to get into swimming pools to cool off in the summer. But, they are easier to spot in pools.

              1. Another reason for no accessories allowed in public pools–cuts down on snake hiding places!

        1. I’ve got a few ideas for locations of pools in Decatur, but I’d prefer to develop them myself as private pools. The market is certainly there.

          Letting the city take the lead after the McCoy Park debacle would be madness.

  5. Has anyone been to Mountain Park Aquatic Center near Stone Mountain. It is owned and operated by Gwinnett County. It has fun water slides, a lazy river, etc. They charge $5 for 11 yrs and up residents and $10 for 11 yrs and up non-residents. Pretty discouraging for non-residents except as a special treat.

  6. Jabari usually chimes in on this stuff. Now I really want to know how well IDs are checked. I do know – like pool user- of a number of folks who claimed residency but weren’t back when the daily rates were different. And why can non residents buy a season pass anyway? If the pools are crowded, raise the price for nonresidents!

    1. Jabari’s probably still stuck on “Goodness Gracious!!!” about this post! DM kinda threw a wet towel over all the kudos he and the Active Living folks received for turning an underutilized and money losing pools program into a tremendously popular and self supporting community asset! The Mayor and Commissioners all had glowing words of praise! Naturally, they asked Jabari for his take on pool overcrowding– how things are done now and what needs doing. Jabari’s already given thought to needed adjustments, and the Commission plans to support Active Living to ensure that 2012 swim season will be good to go.

      nelliebelle- IDs checking hasn’t been emphasized up until now because there hasn’t been an enforcement method in place. Nonresidents’ season pass $$$ = a good thing back when hardly anyone used the pool! :0)

  7. I had a season pass last year but was never asked to show it at McKoy. Had me thinking why did I bother to get the season pass in the first place when I could just check off the season pass box upon arrival no questions asked. I know I will get another pass next year cause I’m one of those strange rule followers. But ,how many people noticed this last year and will choose to fake having a season pass next year. Or how many people noticed this the year before and did not get passes this past summer. The lifeguards need to begin checking for passes and charge accordingly for resident or non-resident.

  8. We live in North Decatur and we are equal-opportunity pool-goers in that we rotate between pretty much all the local public pools rather than buying a pass for any particular pool or system. We are also on a pretty strict budget. We considered joining Pangborn or one of the other pools in our area, but we chose not to so that we could sometimes meet friends at other local pools like CoD, Grant Park, etc. If CoD raises their daily prices for non-residents, I am thinking we will just join Pangborn and be done with it. We had a couple of not-great experiences at McKoy last year. The pools in Decatur are nice, but not all that. If you don’t want us there, we’ll be glad to stay away. 🙂

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