For much of June, Williamsburg city officials fretted over whether they would be allowed to open the Kentucky Splash waterpark at all this summer, and, if so, what the maximum capacity at the park would be at any given time due to COVID-19 restrictions.
What they finally determined was that no more than 1,850 guests would be allowed inside the waterpark at any given time to ensure social distancing could be met. This is about 50 percent of the park’s maximum capacity.
The reality of what the park has experienced since it opened on July 4 hasn’t been too many guests to accommodate, but rather not enough business to the point of possibly not generating enough revenue to cover payroll expenses.
This was part of the message that Mayor Roddy Harrison delivered to the Williamsburg City Council during its monthly meeting Monday evening, which was held via Zoom video conferencing.
When the park opened on July 4, over 800 people attended that day, but overall attendance at the waterpark is averaging only about 630 people per day.
On Saturday, a total of about 1,850 people visited the waterpark, but the next day attendance was back down to about 600 people.
An added expense at the waterpark this year is increased cleaning due to COVID-19, which has also raised operating costs.
Harrison said waterpark officials aren’t sure they will generate enough revenue to cover payroll, and the next step might be to switch waterpark operations from seven days per week to a Friday-Sunday schedule only.
He said officials should know something by Thursday or Friday when they determine what payroll will be.
On the plus side, the Kentucky Splash campground has been full this summer, Harrison added.
Also, during Monday’s city council meeting the commission accepted the resignation of long-time Williamsburg Tourism Commission members Jerry Connell and Paul Rains.
Both started out serving on the recreation commission, and have been serving on the tourism commission for over 40 years.
During that time, Briar Creek Park was built along with a lot of other projects, Harrison noted.
“Both of them assured me that they were tired and ready to go,” Harrison added.
Neither will be able to attend this week’s Williamsburg Tourism Commission meeting, and both will be honored at a later date.
Connell’s son, Williamsburg City Councilman Loren Connell, noted that both men would probably be just fine with not being acknowledged at all and riding off into the sunset quietly.
Harrison said that several names were tossed around as replacements on the tourism commission.
The council approved the appointments of Travis Wilson and Cejay Jones as new members of the tourism commission.
Wilson is employed at the University of the Cumberlands, and Jones grew up across the street from Briar Creek Park.
Harrison added that both of them are excited to be joining the tourism commission.
In addition, Harrison gave the council an update on the COVID-19 situation noting in part that it is some of the younger groups who are getting COVID-19 the most locally.
The most common group of people diagnosed in Whitley County are those ages 21-30 followed by those ages 31-40.
Harrison said he thinks this is largely because a lot of younger people aren’t wearing masks, and he admits that he probably wouldn’t be sitting at home during COVID-19 if he were in his 20s either.
Harrison strongly encouraged people of all ages to wear masks while out in public noting that if masks didn’t work there would be no need for doctors and nurses to wear them during surgery at hospitals.
“There has to be some protection with it (mask wearing). The other thing is economically, we don’t need to go backwards. If the numbers keep going up, I am afraid some of the businesses will have to close down again and we don’t want to do that. Plus, we have loved ones we want to protect,” Harrison said.
“I understand the reasons for wearing a mask. I don’t like it. I don’t think any of us like it, but I think it is a necessity. Just realistically, if you don’t want to go backwards, put the dog gone thing on, run in, do your business and come on back out.”