Facility Profile - March 2003
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If You Enclose it, They Will Come

Mission Valley YMCA
San Diego, Calif.

By Jenny E. Beeh


It's hard to go swimming when you don't even know there's a pool around. Such was the case for many of the 11,000 members of the Mission Valley YMCA in San Diego. For 18 years, the facility's six-lane, 45-meter-by-25-meter outdoor pool was hidden away from sight by looming walls.

Another factor hampering the pool's usage was the sometimes chilly air temps. Sure, this is sunny Southern California, but evening temperatures often fluctuate 20 degrees when the sun goes down, especially in the winter months, leaving many patrons, well, out in the cold.

Without being able to control the ambient air temperature in the pool area, the Y ended up repelling not attracting swimmers, especially the aging population, many of whom suffer from arthritis and could benefit from aquatic workouts.

"If they're standing in the water, shivering, trying to do exercises, it's a big issue," says Dick Webster, Mission Valley's executive director. The pool environment needed help.

For a solution, the Mission Valley chose a retractable roof enclosure by OpenAire Inc. of Mississauga, Ontario. Most of the time, the roof and walls can be opened to create an outdoor pool environment. When weather creates a less-than-perfect swim climate, the roof and walls can close as needed to create a bright, inviting space.

"It's a huge welcoming symbol," Webster says. "It was a big marketing success because people were now aware of what's available to them."


The $450,000 enclosure is 76.5 feet by 110 feet with 10-foot high side walls. The roof is glazed with clear, 1-inch (25mm) five-walled polycarbonate and has 20 operable panels. The vertical areas are glazed with 1-inch (25mm) insulating glass mostly in the form of sliding glass doors. The adjustable roof can completely retract over about five of the six lanes, and Webster estimates the enclosure is left open to some degree at least 90 percent of the time by the facility.

Because the existing building to which the enclosure would attach could not withstand the loads that the new enclosure would impose, OpenAire designed custom tie rods to contain the thrust.

With the finished enclosure, the result is that now four times as many patrons use the pool in the evenings.

"Prior to covering the pool, we had very little winter usage, and only limited evening usage," Webster says. "We now have a full pool. Our aquatic income has increased more than 40 percent since adding the cover. It has made a big difference to our YMCA and to the people in our community."

Mission Valley's pool is no longer a goose-bumpy ghost town on winter nights. Now a typical evening in January might mean 20 kids in swim class, two lanes of lap swimmers and another 40 patrons in a water exercise class, all at any one time. The facility has definitely succeeded in maximizing its usage.

"As one of my board members says, 'Not only did we get the increased usage, but we got a million dollars worth of marketing,'" Webster says. "At night it lights up like a beacon."

For more information
OpenAire Inc.: 800-267-4877 or visit www.openaire.com

Mission Valley YMCA: visit http://missionvalley.ymca.org