MERRILLVILLE — There will be no ice skating at Deep River Water Park this year.
The park’s summer staffing issues have persisted into the winter season. Deep River, 9001 E. U. S. 30, typically hires 200 to 250 lifeguards each season, but this past summer they could recruit only 160 in order to 170.
The water park usually hires 30 to 40 employees during the winter season; this year they did not get enough applicants.
“We’ve always had some issues staffing for skating as there are always more sports going on for the high school kids that we usually hire, ” Deep River General Manager Chris Nawracaj wrote in an email to the Times.
Availability can also be an issue because many potential employees travel over the holidays.
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The increase in development that Northwest Indiana has seen in recent years has brought more jobs to the area, making hiring more competitive. Finding available workers can be particularly difficult in the winter, when retail stores tend to increase staff for the holidays, Nawracaj explained.
“While absolutely great for the area, every new warehouse, restaurant and store that opens up takes away from our potential pool of workers, ” Nawracaj wrote. “Also, I think more students participating in school sports and extracurricular activities has also cut into their availability to work as colleges are looking more and more at those types of things. ”
Over the summer, low staffing meant the water park was open five days a week instead of seven.
Lake County Parks advertised lifeguard openings on social media, raised hourly wages to close to $15 and even tried to tap into hiring senior citizens.
The particular park also started promoting summer lifeguard jobs within September, much earlier than usual. Nawracaj said the early promotion has gone “well, inch however there seems to be a “general decline” in the number of people interested in lifeguarding. Local high schools that offer the initial course required to become a lifeguard “can’t even fill a class of 10 students. ”
Next year, Nawracaj said, Heavy River is going to try to get some summer employees stay on during the winter.
Deep River asks anyone interested in becoming a lifeguard to apply online at deepriverwaterpark. com. Deep River offers paid training upon completion of the initial lifeguard class, free uniforms and free water-park tickets.
“We just can’t tie up full-time staff to do ice skating work at the expense associated with work that needs to be done to create a SPLASHtastic 2023 water park season, ” read an announcement posted on the Deep River website. “We hope you’ll understand… hopefully in the future things will change. ”