FAIRMONT - Summer in the city was a hot one this year, and a cool dip in the water was a popular way to beat the heat.
Fairmont Aquatic Park saw a flurry of families, friends and fitness enthusiasts, adding up to 24,501 park patrons over the course of the season - about 4,000 more than last summer.
The credit for the attendance boost mostly goes to Mother Nature, rather than he changes City Council implemented last year.
The council had added two late-night swims, keeping the pool open until 9 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. City administrator Mike Humpal said the move cost an additional $12,000, with only 4 to 10 people showing up on those nights.
The facility also had trouble attracting patrons during the county fair. The typical daily attendance ranged from 350 to 400 people, but for fair week, the average dropped to a mere 44 per day.
Still, all in all, the park was better off financially than 2011. The extra swimmers and sunbathers who turned out during the worst of the heat generated an additional $14,000, bringing the revenue for 2012 to $144,111.
Expenses, however, were $311,373. That might seem like a lot, but it's a slight decline from the year prior, due to changes in how the city handles the pool chemicals.
Fairmont City Administrator Mike Humpal gave the report on the Aquatic Park's 2012 season on Monday.
While the numbers were good, the City Council agreed they could be better.
With the heat and humidity, the attendance hike came as no surprise to Councilman Wes Clerc, who recommended the city start a citizens' panel to evaluate what improvements can be made at the Aquatic Park.
The idea was well taken by Humpal. He suggested recruiting parents whose children frequently use the facility, which would likely be those enrolled in swimming lessons. One comment Humpal is already familiar with is that people are looking for new activities at the park, which was built more than 10 years ago.
The existing features include a zero-depth splash pool with an interactive playset for the little kiddies; a 125-foot speed slide and a 235-foot river-style slide; a six-lane recreation pool; and a diving pool, all of which are still a big attraction to out-of-towners. This past season, the park hosted groups from Forest City, Spirit Lake, St. Peter, Adrian, Albert Lea, Mankato and more.
Clerc suggested expanding the facility's market in order to bring in more people and more money: "The more we can make it accessible to the average family ... the better off we'll be."
The cost for a daily pass to the park is $4, and a family membership is $130. The rates have not increased for several years, Humpal noted, though he also pointed out that the park is a service, not a money-maker.