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

The Mabee Memorial Aquatic Center is owned by a nonprofit corporation called City of Midland Aquatics. Although "City of Midland" is in its name, the facility in Midland, Texas, is privately owned by the competitive swimming and diving teams that call it home. It's not government subsidized in any way, which makes the facility's expansions even more impressive.

The facility started with a 25-yard competition pool in 1972 but added a 25-yard-by-25-yard pool with an indoor diving tower in 1993. It also features a water aerobics and heated therapy pool (powered by solar energy), aerobics studio, weight/cardio room and six locker rooms. Altogether the facility has five pools and another $1.8 million expansion in the works. Not surprisingly, the USWFA recognized it as the country's best aquatics fitness center in 2003 and ranked it second overall for programming.

Although the facility has numerous competitively oriented features, a lot of its programming has nothing to do with competition. There are water fitness and aerobics classes, water-walking, senior programs, scuba, numerous kids' classes, and after the new expansion, dry-land therapy. Its most successful programs have been devoted to seniors, which have been going since 1993.

"There are a growing number of seniors who, all of their lives, have been in good health, you know, exercising and all that—I think more so than the previous generation," Swendig says. "These guys want to keep exercising and keep doing things, and water is what's left that's still healthy for them."

Children have a variety of choices at the Mabee Center. In addition to lessons, kids can be part of the Splash Team, a sort of entry-level stop between swimming lessons and the swim team. From there, kids can move on to the diving team or the swim team. Swendig initially called the pre-team program "Kid Fit," but again he faced problems with his name choice.

"That was my name, and nobody liked it because they just thought it was for overweight kids," he says. "Kids all wanted to be on a team, so we called it the Athlete Prep Team…All these kids have never been on a team before, so the fact that we call it an 'athlete prep team' is really important to them."

Swendig has a new kids' program in the works as well, though this one focuses on a seldom represented group: kids who have average mental faculties but suffer from some physical disability, such as cerebral palsy or juvenile arthritis.