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Feature Article - June 2018
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Aquatics

A Look at Trends in Aquatic Facilities


Respondents from community centers reported the highest average aquatic operating expense for 2017, at $650,000. They were followed by aquatic respondents from parks ($600,000), schools ($450,000), health clubs ($450,000) and colleges and universities ($320,000). Respondents from camps have the lowest average aquatic operating expense in 2017, at $170,000, followed by Ys ($280,000).

From 2017 to 2019, respondents from health clubs reported the highest growth rate for aquatic operating expenses. Health club respondents with aquatics project that their aquatic operating expenses will grow by 53.3 percent to a total of $690,000 in 2019. Also expecting higher growth rates are respondents from Ys (up 14.3 percent, to $320,000) and parks (up 10 percent, to $660,000). More modest increases were expected among other facility types, with camps expecting a 5.9 percent increase (to $180,000), community centers and colleges expecting a 3.1 percent increase (to $670,000 and $330,000, respectively), and schools expecting a 2.2 percent increase (to $460,000) from 2017 to 2019.

More than a quarter (27.1 percent) of aquatic respondents said their revenues for aquatics only increased from 2016 to 2017, down from 32 percent who reported an increase from 2015 to 2016. At the same time, the number of aquatic respondents whose aquatic revenues decreased rose from 10.2 percent reporting a decrease from 2015 to 2016, to 12.1 percent reporting a decrease from 2016 to 2017.

Looking forward, the percentage of aquatic respondents who expect their revenues to grow year-over-year increases slightly, while the percentage projecting a decrease falls slightly. From 2017 to 2018, 33.3 percent of aquatic respondents expect revenues to increase, and 7.1 percent expect a decrease. From 2018 to 2019, 33.5 percent expect aquatic revenues to rise, while 5.3 percent expect them to fall.

From 2016 to 2017, aquatic respondents from health clubs were the most likely to report that their aquatic revenues increased. Some 37.5 percent of health club respondents said aquatic revenues increased from 2016 to 2017. They were followed by parks, 32.9 percent of whom saw an increase, and community recreation centers, 27.1 percent of whom reported an increase. Schools were the least likely to report an increase to aquatic revenues from 2016 to 2017. Only 6.5 percent of schools said revenues increased in that time frame.

Looking forward, respondents from health clubs, community recreation centers and parks are the most likely to be expecting further increases to their aquatic revenues. Among aquatic respondents, from 2017 to 2018, 42.4 percent of health clubs, 41.4 percent of community centers and 38.5 percent of parks expect aquatic revenues to increase. And from 2018 to 2019, 41.9 percent of health clubs, 40.4 percent of community centers and 37.6 percent of parks expect an increase.

The percentage of aquatic respondents who report that their aquatic revenues support aquatic operations remained virtually unchanged from 2017 to 2018. More than one-fifth (21.5 percent) of aquatic respondents said their aquatic facilities generate the revenue to support operations, and 69.9 percent said aquatic facilities are subsidized via funding from other sources. (See Figure 40.)

Respondents from private, for-profit organizations were the most likely to report that they are able to support their aquatic operations with revenues from their aquatic facilities. Some 29 percent of for-profit respondents with aquatics said their aquatic facilities are supported via revenues, while 55.1 percent said aquatic operations are subsidized with funding from other sources.

Public and private nonprofit organizations are much more likely to rely on other funding to subsidize aquatic operations. Some 21 percent of nonprofits and 20.1 percent of public organizations said their aquatic operations are supported via revenues, while 70.8 percent of nonprofits and 72.4 percent of public organizations said aquatic operations are subsidized via funding from other sources.

Respondents from Ys were the most likely to report that they earn their aquatic operating costs back via aquatic revenues. Some 29.4 percent of Y respondents with aquatics said they cover their aquatic operating costs with revenues. They were followed by health clubs (25.7 percent of whom cover their aquatic operating costs with revenues) and community recreation centers (22.6 percent).

Respondents from camps, colleges and parks are the most likely to subsidize their aquatic operations with funding from other sources. Some 81.8 percent of camp respondents, 76.7 percent of college respondents and 70.5 percent of park respondents with aquatics said they cover some of the cost of their aquatic operating expenses with funding from other sources.

Programming

The majority of aquatic respondents reported that they currently provide programming at their aquatic facilities, from swim lessons and lap swimming to lifeguard training and more. Some 95.9 percent of aquatic respondents said they provide aquatic programming. This includes 100 percent of aquatic respondents from Ys and from colleges and universities. Community recreation centers are the second most likely to include aquatic programs, with 98.4 percent of these respondents indicating that they include them at their aquatic facilities. They were followed by health clubs (97.1 percent include aquatic programs), schools (96.9 percent) and parks (95.2 percent). Camp respondents are the least likely to provide aquatic programming, though a majority—86.7 percent—said they do include such programs.

The top 10 aquatic programs currently found at aquatic facilities changed very little from 2017. They include:

  1. Leisure swim (currently found at 88.3 percent of aquatic facilities)
  2. Learn-to-swim for children (82.6 percent)
  3. Lap swim (76.8 percent)
  4. Lifeguard training (74.7 percent)
  5. Aquatic exercise programs (67.6 percent)
  6. Learn-to-swim for adults (60.5 percent)
  7. Water safety programs (60.5 percent)
  8. Youth swim teams (56.3 percent)
  9. Swim meets and competitions (49.8 percent)
  10. Special needs aquatics programs (36.1 percent)

Programs that saw an increase of at least 2 percentage points in the number of respondents providing them include: lifeguard training (up 3.4, from 71.3 percent); and learn-to-swim for children (up 2.1, from 80.5 percent).

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