Feature Article - April 2005
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Programming Your Pool

A closer look at aquatics facilities that used their successes and failures to grow

By Kyle Ryan

Opened in 1999 for a cost of $5.6 million, the Municipal Pool in Las Vegas features a 50-meter-by-25-yard pool with two one-meter diving boards and one three-meter board. The year-round facility also has classrooms, a fitness area, a concessions area and outdoor pavilions for picnics and such.

In 2003, it took top honors for programming in the municipality category for the United States Water Fitness Association's (USWFA) annual aquatics awards. This year, it received the Department of Leisure Services Recreation Division's Excellence in Aquatics Award.

The attention isn't unwarranted. When asked about what programs his facility offers, Irvine isn't sure where to begin.

"Gosh, you name it, we do it," he says.

Boy Scouts go there to get their aquatic merit badges. There are fitness classes and others for people with arthritis or who have had strokes. Scuba companies rent the pool for training. Swimming and synchronized-swimming clubs use the pool.

With so much going on, Irvine has to juggle his scheduling. Most of the programs take place at the Municipal Pool, and when it's time to schedule the pool, programs come first.

"We program our pool, and then club teams or people that want to request pool time put in their request with us, and we try to accommodate everybody," Irvine says. "It's worked well for the most part."

Its most successful programs are the junior lifeguard training (Irvine also has lifeguard and lifeguard-instructor training), its learn-to-swim classes, and surprisingly, synchronized swimming. The sport may be the butt of many jokes come Olympic time, but Las Vegas has two synchro clubs and numerous synchronized swimming meets and performances. Some of the casinos in the city have considered doing synchro shows.

The seven city-run pools also host a number of special events. For the first time last year, the city partnered with the American Red Cross for a pool-safety program called Float Like a Duck. Kids came in on Sundays and learned how to float if they fell in a pool.

Every August, the Municipal Pool hosts a beach party, where participants pay $3 for food, games and music. Similar to that are the tropically themed nights, which have Polynesian dancers, fire-eaters, a DJ, and arts and crafts. The tropical night attracted up to 500 people on its own, so both programs have been very successful.

So have the splash camps offered at the pool during school breaks. Kids who sign up receive an hors d'oeuvre platter of water activities: water safety, synchronized swimming, water polo, and so on.

One new event the city tried in 2004 was a floatbox derby. Organizers invited people to race flotation devices made from certain materials. People competed in three categories, including single-sailor (where one person rides while another tows) to family. Although Irvine concedes the event was only moderately successful, he hopes it will catch on this year.