The Astoria City Council is beset with difficult choices. It made one on Monday night, approving a budget that diminishes funds for the Astoria Aquatic Center. One consequence may be the center's closing on Sundays.
At the close of the council meeting, Jim Servino made a significant point when he reminded councillors of the wide margin (67.9 percent) by which Astoria voters approved a bond measure to finance the pool in 1995.
"It pains me to see one of the seven days lopped off," Servino said. "Sunday is one of the best days to have families use the center. It's tough to market something that isn't open all the time."
In truth, Sunday is one of the Aquatic Center's slowest days, with an average of 100 people using the facility, according to the pool's manager, Renee Hoefling. If one day were to be earmarked for closure, it would make sense to have it be Sunday.
The essence of Servino's argument is on-target. Councillors should not forget the huge margin of victory that propelled the Aquatic Center into existence. This is something that a large majority wanted. And it is more difficult to market a facility that is not open every day. Servino used the example of Astoria's downtown, which has confused shoppers with erratic or irregular Sunday closures. We live in a world that expects things to be open seven days per week.
The key word in Servino's admonition is marketing, and the Parks Department management team seems to be taking that more seriously. Therein lies another truism. Once you open a facility, you must market it. Public entities nationwide have been slow to understand the importance of marketing. They assume that if something like a swimming pool is there, the public knows it. That is not necessarily the case. Never assume too much. And in these tight fiscal times, marketing becomes even more critical.
Astoria's swimming facility receives one of the lowest general fund subsidies of any municipal pool in Oregon. Its managers are cost conscious. The task is to increase pool use. It's time for aggressive marketing.