Wild Water West short on lifeguards as season opens

The waterpark is running short on lifeguards, and they’re having trouble finding enough staff to make sure every attraction will stay open.
Published: May. 23, 2022 at 2:33 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Wild Water West is still scheduled to open for the season the upcoming Memorial Day weekend. But they’re running short on lifeguards, and they’re having trouble finding enough staff to make sure every attraction will stay open.

The pools are filled with water at Wild Water West, with the season right around the corner. But there will be empty lifeguard stands at opening day. Lead lifeguard Colter Quinn said typically the park has anywhere between 70 to 75 lifeguards employed. A week before the season starts, they only have 57.

“Anymore today, I think it’s so hard to find anyone to work right now, that everyone is paying as much as they can. And that being said, it’s hard to compete with other places that are paying the same.” said Quinn.

Quinn said that competition between other businesses and themselves isn’t new in attracting workers. But the amount of options now for high school and college students means they have to market themselves that much harder.

“People finding different jobs, not wanting to work, kind of having that relaxed feeling is really affecting the job market. Especially lifeguards, with pay and everything right now. You can be in an air conditioned workplace for the same amount of money. It’s very hard to grasp anyone when all of these different options are open.” said Quinn.

Lifeguards start at $16 per hour at the waterpark. Quinn said that while the shortage will not stop them from opening up on time, it will affect what attractions will be open and at what times.

“So I mean it really does affect the atmosphere in the sense of what we can and cannot have open, for people to enjoy during the summer.” said Quinn.

That shortage is a challenge for Karlye Maras, now in her third year as a lifeguard at the park. Maras said having less staff means they’re responsible for more people in the water, and can be tough to make sure everyone stays safe.

“It’s a lot harder to make sure everyone is staying safe, and everybody is fine when they’re swimming. Just because they’re zones are a lot bigger and they’re still a lot of people in them. So it just doubles it.” said Maras.

Maras said the work can be daunting at first. But she said being a lifeguard is a rewarding job, and wants to make sure newcomers feel welcome.

“I’ve made my best friend actually here at the park. She doesn’t work here anymore, but we’re still really good friends. You definitely make a lot of friends. Kind of the number of lifeguards scares you at first like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m not going to know any of my co-workers.’ But you get to know everyone.” said Maras.

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