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Feature Article - March 2007

A Plan Four All Seasons

Four-season design for recreational enclosures

By Kelli Anderson


When the Woodruff Family YMCA in Milford, N.J., reopened the pool in May 2005 with an enclosure of polycarbonate panel and aluminum, they prepared for an increase in membership. "We were at approximately 4,000 members and had a target to 6,000 in two years," said Phil Dwyer, president and CEO of the Central Connecticut Coast YMCA in New Haven, Conn. "But by year end of 2005—what is that, seven months?—we were at 7,000. The reaction of the community was instant success. It blew well past our expected goals."

The YMCA's local leaders knew the facility needed both an outdoor and indoor pool experience for its patrons and began to provide that over a decade earlier with a bubble structure erected during colder months and dismantled during the warmer ones. Although this was a good first step toward fulfilling patrons' wishes and building revenue, it wasn't a permanent solution. After the second bubble of 11 years collapsed, and frustrated with the rising heating costs thanks to oil-price increases, they were ready for something new.

But what to choose? In today's market, four-season designs come with several material options, and selecting the right one depends on factors such as programming, geographical location, budget and aesthetics. Whether the structure is air-supported, panel- or fabric-and-frame, to name the most common, all share the basic qualities desired by patrons everywhere—natural light.