Looking back on Phoenix lifeguard shortage heading into 2023

Only 14 of Phoenix’s 29 city pools were open this summer due to an ongoing lifeguard shortage.
Published: Sep. 3, 2022 at 9:55 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - As the hot temperatures continue through Labor Day weekend, this will be the last weekend Phoenix city pools will be open before shutting down for the rest of the season.

Only 14 of Phoenix’s 29 city pools were open this summer due to an ongoing lifeguard shortage. “I normally go to the pool that’s called Marivue,” Phoenix resident Melissa Orellana said. “But it seems to have been closed for the last two years.”

With less than half of Phoenix pools opening this summer, Orellana and her family’s next closest option was Cortez Pool. But while that pool was further away, it more than got the job done. “Everything’s wonderful, all the lifeguards are always watching out for the children,” she said. “The staff is very friendly. Everyone here seems to be enjoying themselves.”

Phoenix Parks and Recreation’s Adam Waltz says all 14 operational pools had the necessary staffing and resources. “We make sure that safety is number 1 priority,” Waltz said. “We would never understaff a pool just to say that we have pools open.”

But Waltz says that to have more pools open next summer and fend off other, more high-paying summer jobs, the City of Phoenix is already reaching out to high schoolers to double its staffing size. “We’re recruiting those kids at high schools that have swim teams,” he said. “Because that’s a really good group for us to recruit from. The recruitment has already begun, and will be a year-long process. "

The dozens of hours of training necessary to become certified makes hiring lifeguards more difficult. To help with that, the City of Phoenix approved a $2,500 bonus for anyone who completes the certification training, which Waltz says builds skills beyond keeping those in the water safe. “You have to have great leadership,” he said. “You’re learning life-saving skills, and skills that look great on a college application, look great on a resume.”

The goal is to have all 29 Phoenix pools open next summer. But no matter how many are in use, Orellana appreciates the city’s efforts. “I think it’s fun and great for the kids,” she said. “Very safe environment. And it allows everyone in the community to actually come in and enjoy some time in the sun.”

Cortez, El Prado, Encanto, Harmon, Maryvale, Paradise Valley, Perry, and Sunnyslope are the Phoenix pools that will be open the rest of this Labor Day weekend.