VP Building - Quality Buildings for Recreation
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Feature Article - June 2015

Aquatics

A Look at Trends in Aquatic Facilities


The past year has seen the culmination of years' worth of effort as the first edition of the Model Aquatic Health Code was released. This is the nation's first set of voluntary guidelines based on science and best practices to improve health and safety at swimming pools and aquatic venues. The code is a guideline that states and localities can use to create or update their existing pool codes in order to reduce the risk of outbreaks, drowning and pool-chemical injuries. With massive input from industry, public health, academia and more, the MAHC is an extensive piece of work, and will continue to improve as more input and feedback is gathered.

At the same time that industry professionals have been aiming to boost safety and health at aquatic facilities, Americans have been aspiring to swim. Although its latest 2015 Participation Report shows a disturbing trend of inactivity among Americans, the Physical Activity Council did find that swimming for fitness leads the list of "aspirational activities"—or activities in which those who are not currently participating would like to take part.

Research shows that a majority of U.S. households are within a 12-minute drive of a swimming pool, so those who aspire to swim certainly don't lack the resources to get started. And in recent years, swimming pools have catapulted beyond the old rectangular jump-in-and-swim facilities of the past to include exciting amenities—everything from splash play and water playgrounds to slides, wave pools, surf machines, poolside climbing walls and more. What's more, the way pools are taken care of—from automatic systems that keep chemicals in balance to new technologies that help conserve resources—has also evolved rapidly. Today's pools are nothing like the pools of the past.

In this section, we'll take a look at how the trends are playing out among survey respondents whose facilities include aquatic elements, whether those are indoor or outdoor swimming pools, splash play areas, waterparks or hot tubs.

More than half of respondents (54 percent) to the 2015 Industry Report survey reported that their facilities include aquatic elements. (See Figure 34.) This is a slight increase from 2014, when 52.1 percent of respondents included aquatic elements.

Aquatic Facilities

There was little change in the types of aquatic facilities represented in the survey from 2014 to 2015. There were slight decreases in the percentage of respondents who reported having indoor or outdoor swimming pools, splash play areas and waterparks, while there was a slight increase in those with hot tubs, spas and whirlpools. The most common type of aquatic facility represented was outdoor swimming pools, with 71.8 percent of aquatic respondents reporting that they had this type of facility. They were followed by indoor swimming pools (62 percent), splash play areas (48.6 percent), hot tubs, spas and whirlpools (41.3 percent), and waterparks (23.9 percent). (See Figure 35.)

Respondents in the South Atlantic and South Central states were the most likely to report having aquatic facilities. Some 57.2 percent of South Atlantic respondents and 57.2 percent of South Central respondents said they had aquatic elements in their facilities. They were followed by the Midwest (54.7 percent) and the West (52 percent). Respondents in the Northeast were least likely to have aquatics, though more than half (50.4 percent) said aquatic elements do make up part of their lineup.

Indoor swimming pools were most commonly found among respondents in the Midwest, where 58.5 percent of aquatic respondents said they had indoor pools. They were followed by the Northeast (53.7 percent) and the South Central region (50 percent). Aquatic respondents in the South Atlantic and the West were less likely to have indoor pools, with 39.3 percent and 46.9 percent, respectively, reporting their facilities included them.

Outdoor swimming pools were most common in the South Atlantic region, where 72.9 percent of aquatic respondents said they had outdoor pools. They were followed by the South Central region (67.7 percent) and the West (61.2 percent). Outdoor pools were less common in the Northeast and Midwest, where 55.2 percent and 55.7 percent, respectively, of aquatic respondents said outdoor pools were included in their facilities.

Splash play areas were most commonly found in the Midwest, where 39.7 percent of aquatic respondents said splash play was part of their facilities. They were followed by the South Atlantic (38.5 percent) and South Central (38.4 percent) regions. Aquatic respondents in the West (35.9 percent) and Northeast (21.7 percent) were the least likely to include splash play areas in their facilities.

Waterparks also were most common among Midwestern aquatic respondents, with 21.9 percent reporting they make up part of their facility lineup. They were followed by the South Atlantic (19 percent) and South Central (15.9 percent) regions. Aquatic respondents in the West (10.6 percent) and Northeast (4.4 percent) were least likely to include waterparks.

Hot tubs, spas and whirlpools were most common in the West, where 40.8 percent of aquatic respondents said they included this element as part of their facilities. They were followed by the Midwest (33 percent) and South Central region (26.2 percent). Aquatic respondents from the South Atlantic (25.5 percent) and the Northeast (16.7 percent) were least likely to have hot tubs, spas or whirlpools.

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