Put Your Pool in Overdrive
Programming Your Pool for Success
By Rick Dandes
New and innovative programs can help draw new people to your pool, Withrow said. "Sure, your basic learn-to-swim lessons are far and away the most popular draws to public aquatic facilities, but you also need to be creative to expand your customer base. After all, there's a lot of competition for a person's non-working, or leisure time, so pool managers by necessity need to find ways to make going to the pool a more exciting experience through creative programming."
There is a big push for aqua-therapy in the water, and evidence that it can help people recover from injury or surgery. "That can be a good source of revenue," Withrow suggested. Low-impact aquatics are safer and involve a smaller perception of pain and effort, making it a suitable choice for everyone from older or overweight adults to professional athletes.
Aquatic exercise has gained in popularity significantly over the past 25 years, noted Angie Proctor, executive director, Aquatic Exercise Association, in Nokomis, Fla. "More so in the past 10 years," she said. "Seniors, athletes, teens, young mothers and baby boomers are the majority of clients we see worldwide in vertical exercise."
Organize a community youth swim team, Hurn, of Ann Arbor, added. "We've only had that team for three years, but we already average 85 swimmers a session, which is excellent for a team that's so young."
Other successful ideas in the Ann Arbor playbook include paddle-boarding programs and log rolling. Splash Days are afternoons of special games, activities and prizes both in and out of the pool, Hurn said. All activities and prizes are included in the cost of admission.
Learn-to-swim like a mermaid is one of Ann Arbor's more popular programs. "It's pretty unique, and a lot of fun," she said. "It's taught similar to traditional learn-to-swim programs, but with a mermaid tail and the fins. We open that up to adults. When my staff does this, the amount of joy that comes out of people is insane. In all our mermaid classes, trained instructors teach swimmers to move through the water, embodying the skills needed to transform into their inner mermaid/merman. Swimmers work on surface diving, somersaults, turning over from front to back and much more. Each student will be able to use mermaid equipment supplied by the pool throughout the class and get an underwater video of their mer-experience emailed to them."
Another thing pool managers can do to increase revenue is rent out the pool for parties. In Ann Arbor, Hurn offers rentals and party packages that can include log rolling, a mermaid party, bounce house, a dive-in movie or just fun in the summer sun.
Reaching out to minority swimmers is a program many municipalities can and should offer, Hurn said. "We find that those folks, at least in our municipality, are those who have not had access to our programming. That is one of the reasons we try to bring in some non-swimming aquatic programs, as an entry point for those who don't feel comfortable swimming. Our log rolling programming has been very successful for people who are non-swimmers to get in the water with their kids, and we find that people feel a little more comfortable taking the risk on that versus taking the risk on swimming. That's an area we are still trying to build on."
Reusser, of Salt Lake County, suggested a few more ideas that have drawn more people to the pool: Try having a century swim, where you sponsor a swimmer; it's a fun and a good way to potentially raise money for nonprofits, he said. "We are introducing log-rolling. Why not have a dive-in movie night at the pool? Have after hours teen parties. Offer Aqua-Zorbs [water-walking balls] time. Greased watermelon competitions. Coin dives. Inner-tube water polo. Offer free pool passes for participating in other recreation center programs. Or simply have open swim time with no other programming."
Other suggestions: The Aquatic Exercise Association is on the cutting edge of trending programs, but they do require highly trained and certified instructors for aquatic cardio programs, aquatic kick boxing, and aqua-bata shallow workouts.