Guest Column - March 2011
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Design Corner

Making Aquatics More Cost-Effective

By David Schwartz


Renovation Considerations

Before you renovate your pool facility, you must understand what you have. Can you physically make upgrades to the site and existing structure? Is it cost-effective to lengthen, widen and deepen your pool if it has a remaining life of five to 10 years? How will the new features affect your attendance? Will nearby pools continue to attract more patrons because of their features and fee schedule?

Set realistic goals. Your pool may be a 50-yard deep-water pool that offers little recreation in today's market. Consider reinventing your pool by adding slides, shallow water, sprays or a current channel. This is not an inexpensive endeavor, but it is much more cost-effective (millions less) than building a completely new pool.

If complete renovation is not needed, consider enhancing what you have. Adding shade, a grass deck, benches, tables, lounge chairs, floatables, small slides and a spray park are just a few examples of what can be cost-effective improvements to your aquatic facility. You may need infrastructure improvements to the pool systems (piping, gutter, filters, pump, heater, chemicals and pool structure), and they may take priority over enhancements the patrons can see or use. The infrastructure work will not be seen or understood by the public, so be aware that it will not increase your attendance. Set your expectations accordingly.

We increasingly see communities choosing to replace old, large pools with spray parks. The large pools may be located in less-than-ideal areas and may have growing subsidies. A spray park, also commonly referred to as a splashpad, sprayground or other, can offer alternative aquatic fun at a fraction of the cost of a new or renovated pool. Typically it will contain a slab of concrete with numerous flush or above-grade sprays. Operationally it is low maintenance and typically does not need to be staffed. Should adding a spray park still not be the answer, another option to consider is replacement with a new pool.

New Facility Options

If neither renovation nor a spray park is the community choice, pool replacement may be the preferred option. Planning and building a new pool requires several decisions by designers and owners. This is a great opportunity to take a cost-effective approach. This does not mean cheaper is better. Consider the impact of each piece of equipment on the operation and maintenance needs. Consider the durability and life expectancy for each material. The pool systems must function to meet your goals for effectiveness and reliability.

Keep in mind that the annual operating cost for most pools will exceed the initial capital cost within 20 years' time. As you make choices and decisions, consider the impact on cost-effective operation, as well as first cost.