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Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

Lifeguard Antwan Newton works the pools at the McMurtrey Aquatic Center in June 2013. The hot weather probably led to the pool being used to capacity as people tried to beat the heat.

Nearly 24 percent more overheated people than last year used city pools this summer, and attendance at athletic programs citywide is expected to rise 3 percent over 2012, Recreation and Parks Director Dianne Hoover said Thursday.

The director told the Bakersfield City Council's Community Services Committee that hiring more employees and offering more programs drew 108,792 people to city pools during the summer, through Aug. 31, a 23.9 percent increase over last year summer's attendance of 87,778.

Hoover said being able to hire more temporary summer staff, including 87 lifeguards, about 20 more than last year -- and paying aquatic staffers anywhere from 50 cents to $1.50 per hour more than 2012 -- enabled the city to offer additional swimming lessons and aquatic events at its pools.

Lifeguards gave 1,864 people swimming lessons at city pools this summer, compared to 1,571 people last year, an 18.7 percent increase, she pointed out.

Overall attendance in all city athletic programs is projected to rise from 259,464 in 2012 to an estimated 267,261 by Dec. 31, or just more than 3 percent. That's also a 100 percent increase from the 2007 attendance figures of 129,441.

Hoover credited this rise to the popularity of softball leagues, and the adapting of sports ranging from T-ball to basketball for special needs athletes.

She noted a $44,410 increase in revenue from 2011 to 2013, from teams participating in the City Softball League, telling the committee, "This is just softball, and you can see our softball really took off after we opened Mesa Marin Sports Complex, on June 1, 2011."

Committee members were impressed.

"It's great to see this asset, and quality of life improvement," said Ward 4 Councilman Bob Smith.

"Very, very good, just the way it's increasing and word is getting out," said committee Chairwoman Jacquie Sullivan, the Ward 6 council representative. "The community is definitely aware of good, healthy recreation and the support that is going on."

Mesa Marin's four existing softball diamonds could be joined by two new fields, Hoover said in an interview, but City Manager Alan Tandy declined to confirm that number after the meeting.

"We will be returning at a later date with the concept plan for the expansion of Mesa Marin," Tandy told the committee.

In an interview, he said the project is still being planned, but that expansion details could be revealed in December.