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City of Lincoln pools set to debut for summer season with recognition 'this is not a normal summer'

City of Lincoln pools set to debut for summer season with recognition 'this is not a normal summer'

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Pack face masks along with the sunscreen, flip-flops and towels before heading to a public pool in Lincoln this summer. 

Come Monday, five of the city's nine pools will open for the first time this season, but with strict rules in place including temperature checks for all patrons.

Those pools — Arnold, Ballard, Belmont, Irvingdale and Woods — will have three daily 90-minute swim sessions to allow staff to disinfect surfaces during breaks.

The three local YMCA pools — Fallbrook, Cooper and Copple — opened their gates with two 2-hour sessions and one hour-long period this week. 

YMCA pools capped their attendance at 70 members, or about 25% of capacity, and spaced out deck chairs to keep groups socially distanced.

At YMCA and city pools, pool staff will keep tabs on poolgoers to ensure they keep social distance between groups as lifeguards keep their eyes on the water.

But that hasn't been an issue, said YMCA Lincoln Chief Operation Officer J.P. Lauterbach.

"(Most people) are just happy to have the opportunity to come out and do a little swimming in the hot sun," Lauterbach said Thursday. 

Mixed group games of Marco Polo, however, won't likely float this summer. 

"But it might be a good summer to work on your dive or your lap swimming," said Assistant Lincoln Parks and Recreation Director Holly Lewis.

With coronavirus concerns still lingering, along with overwhelming budget worries, some cities have decided to forgo the season. 

Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert announced Thursday that the city's outdoor pools will remain closed this summer, although three indoor pools there would be opened later in the year.

Village officials in Eagle and City of Waverly officials each decided not to open pools for the 2020 season, citing pandemic precautions. 

Lewis said the chlorine levels in Lincoln pools will safely align with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, and Parks and Recreation officials crafted their social distancing and disinfectant procedures in tandem with the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department.  

Capacity at city pools will vary based on where the health department's risk dial falls at a given time, closing pools on days when the dial's in the red and allowing up to 50% of capacity when it's in the green, Lewis said.

Currently, the city's risk dial is in the yellow, or moderate, category. If that's still the case Monday, Ballard Pool, for example, can have up to 49 guests, or 35% of capacity, she said. 

Poolgoers will pay $2 per session and must sign in so they could be contacted in case of a coronavirus exposure. Everyone must wear face coverings while waiting to check in and must shower in their swimsuit before entering the pool deck, according to the rules. 

Sessions begin at noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., and patrons must clear out once a session ends. It is possible to attend multiple sessions.

At each pool, a family swim session will be scheduled at 6 p.m. on varying days of the week. Cost per family is $5.

City pools will not be available for private party rentals in 2020. Star City Shores, along with the city's University Place, Highlands and Eden pools, will remain closed this season.

At the pools opening Monday, guests should pack water bottles since fountains are closed, and no vending machines or concessions will be offered. 

Families will get wristbands to note they came together and help pool staff identify groups, Lewis said. 

Pool deck chairs will be spaced apart, but guests can bring their own. 

Slides and diving boards will be open, but basketball hoops will be blocked off, and pool staff ask that guests not share supplies like goggles or fins, she said. 

Pool officials hope swimmers will still come out and have a little fun. 

"But clearly, it’s going to be different than its ever been before," Lewis said. 

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Reach the writer at 402-473-2657 or rjohnson@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSRileyJohnson.

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