Guest Column - November 2008
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Design Corner: Third-Party Aquatic Center Management

A Look at the Pros & Cons

By Kevin Post & Michelle Schwartz

YMCA Management

The strength of being managed by the YMCA includes their professional reputation with a special emphasis on community and families. It is common for Y's to have swimming pools, weight rooms, fitness and various sports such as basketball, volleyball and racquetball, thus providing synergy for community fitness. From a global programming perspective, 2,600 Y's are present in 124 countries. Service is closely aligned with municipal protocol. Likewise, hiring and training includes lifeguard management. Weaknesses may include community reaction as it is known as religious-based (conflict of church and state), and contract responsibility versus ownership. Opportunities include balanced programming priorities and an in-sync municipal-type business approach. Threats include another market marker for the Y.

Aquatic Consultant Assistance

Hiring an experienced aquatic consultant can be a plus when deciding how to manage a new aquatic center. Their experience in nationwide research and engaging in conversations with third party consortiums on the city's behalf may be enlightening in making a knowledgeable decision before moving forward in a public/private partnership (PPP). An experienced consultant can see blind spots when visionaries' enthusiasm may only see swimming, splashing and diving.

There are many types of PPPs—operations and maintenance, design-build, turnkey operation, wrap-around addition, temporary privatization, lease or buy/develop/operate, build/transfer/operate, etc. The desire to partner is only effective when there is mutual interest and a common vision in the major capital asset between the municipality and the partner. However, PPPs have allowed many organizations to create aquatic centers that otherwise would not have been possible.

Management investment, whether through a third-party or an in-house team, must ensure that the facility's future as a business enterprise as well as a public institution continues to thrive and challenge itself in nurturing success to both the facility and the community it serves.


Kevin Post is a project manager with Counsilman-Hunsaker, specializing in feasibility analysis for communities. He assists clients in preparing for the development and capital investment requirements of a new project.

Michelle Schwartz is a contract writer for the Counsilman-Hunsaker team. She focuses on research and writing feasibility studies, master plans, strategic plans, marketing narratives and assisting engineers and architects in writing articles for publication. For more information, visit