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Thousands of people visit Ridge Waters since opening day in late June

Daley Schinnell, 16, right and Cora Rouche, 14, play in the lazy river at Ridge Waters Wednesday on a sunny Butte afternoon. The Butte kids are among the nearly 12,000 people who have made a splash at the new public water park.

Attendance at Butte’s new water park topped 11,900 in the first 21 days it was open and revenue has already exceeded expectations for the entire pool season.

From the first day Ridge Waters opened at Stodden Park on June 27 until Tuesday, total admissions were 11,980. That means an average of 570 people have gone to the pool and lazy river each day.

Admissions one day hit nearly 1,100, Parks Director J.P. Gallagher said Wednesday. On the flip side, only about 100 people came on Tuesday because of rainy weather.

But Gallagher and others are pleased with the overall numbers.

“It has exceeded our expectations but we knew it was going to be a hit and be popular,” he said. “Our biggest focus has been on keeping the space clean and keeping enough staff there.

“It has been fantastic and everything has been taken care of, but attendance has been so high that we want to make sure we have adequate staffing.”

The number of outside visitors, based on their license plates, has been great, too.

“We are seeing between 40 and 50 out-of-town vehicles in the parking lot daily,” Gallagher said. “We are seeing a lot from Dillon and Deer Lodge and Anaconda, but we’re seeing some from Bozeman as well.”

The waterpark is open each day, with lap swimming and lessons offered from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. and general swimming from noon to 6:30 p.m. During the latter periods, at least 10 lifeguards are on duty at the same time.

Before the $8.7 million water park opened in late June, Butte had gone without an outdoor public pool since 2006. That was when a previous pool was closed for good because of persistent, costly maintenance problems.

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Voters in June 2016 approved a $7.2 million bond to pay for most of the waterpark’s construction, with another $1.5 million coming from private donations and other public funds.

Voters also approved property tax increases to fund up to $350,000 in operating and maintenance costs for the water park each year. Officials predicted they could make an additional $50,000 from admissions each summer to help pay for that.

But Gallagher said admissions have brought in about $60,000 in just a few weeks and concession sales have generated another $24,000.

Here is a breakdown of the admission numbers:

• Youth admissions: 6,779

• Adult admissions: 4.057

• Senior admissions: 235

• Deck use admissions: 705 (parents, grandparents or guardians who do not swim can get in by purchasing a $2 deck pass).

• There have been 166 youth admissions from discount “punch cards” and 38 from adult punch cards.

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