Guest Column - November 2007
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You've Come a Long Way, Baby

By Melinda Kempfer


Income generators

Designing for revenue is essential. It is imperative that communities maximize the use of these multi-pool complexes for the long-term funding of the facility—the aging, outdated pools of our past were a drain on the taxpayer. Facilities are finding income beyond the entrance gates and ticket counters.

Family aquatic centers are including rentable cabanas within their facilities. These cabanas are rented for an increment of time and allow families and groups to have a shaded, centralized meeting area.

They have become a great source of revenue for many municipalities.

A popular place for children's birthday parties is the neighborhood swimming pool. Many aquatic centers are designating both indoor air-conditioned and outdoor shaded areas for these reserved get-togethers. Popular packages include admission for the attendees, pizza, snacks and a birthday cake.

Easy being green

The commitment to sustainable building practices is on the rise and facilities, indoor and outdoor, are being designed to U.S. green building standards. A recent example of this would be the North Boulder Recreation Center in Colorado. This facility was renovated to meet the U.S. Green Building Council's Silver LEED standards. The Boulder Parks & Recreation Department's specific goals were to reduce the amount of landfill waste generated by the renovation, reduce consumption of natural resources in operating the center and improve the efficiency of the heating/ventilation/air conditioning systems.

The city re-used materials from the old North Boulder Recreation Center and worked to recycle building components. The air conditioning units were reassigned to other areas of the building, used in other buildings or used for parts. The counters were removed and reinstalled in restrooms at a local mall and the asphalt from the old parking lot was recycled.

The solar water heating system in the new recreation center is the largest solar unit to be installed in the past 20 years in the United States. The natural gas consumption is reduced by 50 percent, 2 billion BTUs per year. The high-efficiency boilers operate at a 90 percent efficiency level, a 20 percent increase from the old boilers. All of these LEED-compliant features will reduce the annual energy consumption of the North Boulder Recreation Center by 35 percent compared to normal commercial building standards.

Water, water everywhere

Global warming studies forecast more water shortages that will impact our community's water supplies. We tell our constituents they can only water their grass at certain times, yet we fill our pools with thousands of gallons of water each season. The new trend? Water consciousness.

Water usage is an important consideration in the design and operation of swimming pools. Contributors to water usage include evaporation, bather carryout, splash-out and backwash. Control of water usage is important because of the operational efforts placed into the water, including chemical treatment, balance and heating. Utilizing regenerative media filtration, it is possible to reduce backwash loss by over 90 percent. These filters represent a capital investment premium, but the client should be given the information to make informed decisions regarding the value of this investment.

Changes in water filtration systems including UV filtration are another current and future trend in the industry. UV is quickly becoming a standard for addressing chloramines at indoor aquatic facilities and proactively addresses Cryptosporidium and other chlorine-resistant pathogens in outdoor pools.

Pooling resources

We have begun to see the trend of joint partnerships between public and private entities in the municipal pool market. Many of our city recreation centers have partnered with the high schools, hospitals and YMCAs to produce a win-win situation. The recreation department is able to subsidize and operate a facility that will satisfy the recreational needs of the community, while the other entities are able to fill their particular needs without the burden of operating the facility. Knowing what areas can double as teaching spaces, training areas and recreational swim/buy outs and rentals, while still meeting guests' needs is essential.

Is that your final answer?

Yes, Americans still love to swim. A variety of surveys and studies conducted throughout the nation have provided us with the conclusive evidence of the importance of swimming as a leisure activity. Swimming is now second only to walking as the most popular exercise in the United States, with more than 368 million annual visits to swimming pools. Swimming, however, ranks first among all ages as the most popular recreational activity in the nation.

The family aquatic center still responds to the very basic needs and interests of the consumer. Its emphasis is based upon the premise that the swimming pool visitor is primarily interested in a quality leisure experience that includes high entertainment and social values. The right blend of entertainment, multi-generational programming, along with the now-traditional aquatic requirements, such as zero depth and interactive play, has proven successful for communities of all sizes.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Melinda Kempfer is the business development coordinator for Water Technology Inc., a Wisconsin-based national aquatic design firm. Melinda has written several articles for industry publications and has presented sessions at state and national parks and recreation conferences. For more information, visit www.watertechnologyinc.com.