Feature Article - April 2003
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Keeping Up Appearances

Good housekeeping and maintenance strategies for aquatic centers and other rec facilities

By Kelli Anderson


So you've got good people, you've got a plan in place that has assessed, scheduled and checklisted all facility maintenance needs from keeping windows washed to regular checks of TDSs. But nothing lasts forever. For many facilities, an annual shutdown has become the much anticipated makeover that dramatically washes away the signs of wear and tear and causes patrons upon reentry to give a big-eyed "Wow!"

The Margaret W. Carpenter Center
in Thornton, Colo.

Just as with the daily checklists, an annual checklist should be compiled of the various bigger-project needs that are best accomplished during shutdown. Some advocate a year-long monthly walk-through to compile this list, while others recommend meetings with staff that begin at least six months prior to shutdown to come up with project ideas.

"We close down for one week," says Gina Barton, recreation supervisor for the City of Westminister, Colo., a three-time winner of the National Aquatics Award. "We do an assessment—walk-throughs—well before and check everything out from head-to-toe to know what might be done during that maintenance week. You really have to plan ahead, especially the older you get with things like regrouting."

All practitioners of the shutdown, however, usually have a standard list of to-do's that they always observe. Big projects, or small, their objective is the same: to look like new or better-than-ever when the doors reopen.

"We refinish floors, drain the pools, repaint the high-traffic areas and locker rooms, add new equipment, clean up and reevaluate all the signage, pull out the sand filters—we do a lot of work," says Jan van der Sanden, recreation program and facility supervisor of the Margaret W. Carpenter Center in Thornton, Colo. It's an all-out effort to remain looking as close to new as possible. When a reopened facility looks so good, it makes the wait for the patrons worth it.

That same goal is labeled by Basnight as the "Fishbowl Effect."

"Fishbowl Effect is having a high public perception of a facility when they walk in," Basnight says. "I make sure that when people come back they notice what we did."

And those changes can be as simple as making over the bulletin boards and changing the paint and curtains in the locker rooms. Since larger maintenance projects like overhauling the HVAC or changing the sand filters goes unnoticed by the general public, it's important to have visible improvements that show off what a shutdown can do for the public's own benefit.

Pooled Wisdom
From checking and inspecting to cleaning and repairing, staff members perform the wide variety of aquatic maintenance tasks at the Loma Verde Pool in Chula Vista, Calif.

When looking for guru-like wisdom about good maintenance strategies from those who've "been there, done that," there are several ways to go. And finding someone who's been in the industry a long time isn't necessarily the best qualification.

"You have to ask yourself, does my supervisor or manager have 20 years experience—or one-year experience, 20 times?" asks Wally James, president of Con-Serv Associates in Atlanta.

Going to seminars is certainly a good place to start with the added insight from James that it can be the sharing of information in the halls between managers that can be even more helpful than what's spoken from the podium.

Another resource of pooled wisdom can be found at the Recreation Facilities Design and Management School in Denver where experienced professionals make themselves and their knowledge available once a year to a national and international audience wanting to learn more about everything from design methods to maintaining that well-designed facility into the years ahead.

For more information or to request for a brochure about the school, contact:

Gina Barton 303-460-9690 x215 or gbarton@ci.westminster.co.us

Tiffany Harmon 303-814-7448 or tharimon@ci.castlerock.co.us

Colorado Parks and Recreation Association 303-231-0943 or visit www.cpra-web.org