Aspen Recreation Center back open seven days a week with staff increase |

Aspen Recreation Center back open seven days a week with staff increase

Lack of workers kept Aspen Recreation Center a six-day operation for 10 months

Aspen Swim Club coach Tom Jager guides practice on April 5, 2019, at the Aspen Recreation Center pool.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

It has taken 10 months to get enough staffing and resources to reopen the Aspen Recreation Center to seven days a week.

The city-owned, public facility reduced hours last fall and closed the facility on Sundays because of a labor shortage and a lack of personnel with proper certification to operate parts of the building.

Last week, the ARC went to seven days a week with Sunday hours being 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The facility is still operating on reduced hours Monday through Friday, from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturdays, 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Those reductions began when the pandemic hit and in the ensuing years the facility lost a tremendous amount of staff, said Erin Hutchings, operations manager at the ARC.

“Aspen always has the staffing conundrum, but this is different,” she said.

The shortage of lifeguards has forced the ARC to require reservations for pool time on Sundays only.

The city has been able to hire more staff due to a $12,500 grant from the state, thanks to Gov. Jared Polis, who earmarked money for communities facing lifeguard shortages.

That money gave the city the ability to give hiring bonuses to lifeguards, as well as pay them more if they work weekends.

The city also is teaching people how to swim so they can become lifeguards.

“We are moving the needle,” Hutchings said, noting that 25 people in the pool two requires two lifeguards on duty.

The top priorities are to keep the ARC open seven days a week and have day camps fully operational, Hutchings said.

She said the city recreation department still needs between four and 10 employees to be surefooted, and that includes two to five lifeguards on weekends or 16 hours a week and two or three staffers for the rest of the facility.

City Manager Sara Ott updated Aspen City Council on Tuesday about the changes at the ARC.

“We are still taking reservations for the pool to ensure that we don’t exceed our lifeguard capacity in the venue but that has been promising that we’ve been able to make sure that amenity is back open to the community,” she said.

Councilman Skippy Mesirow asked if the staffing success at the ARC is reflective of other hiring needs within the organization.

Ott said no, it’s not.

“I would not say that it’s easier for any employers, including ourselves, to find qualified candidates,” she said. “Housing continues to be the No. 1 (problem).

“There are a few positions that I lost top candidates to even here in the past two weeks because of a lack of housing in comparison to our wages.”

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Aspen and Snowmass Village make the Aspen Times’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.