Feature Article - February 2006
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Special Supplement: A Complete Guide to Aquatic Centers

Just Add Water

By Kelli Anderson


Even if all maintenance duties are performed like clockwork, no materials last forever. Eventual replacements and an industrial-sized "spring cleaning" are a given. For many facilities, these big jobs are best tackled with an annual shutdown makeover.

Although some annual jobs are routine, such as draining the pools, other maintenance projects (like replacing worn-out carpeting, resurfacing deteriorating decks, and repairing or renovating aging pool surfaces) are ideal for this once-a-year, patron-less opportunity. And when the doors reopen, be sure to have included projects the patrons will be sure to notice and admire.


When the time comes to replace or repair a pool surface, several considerations need to be taken into account before making that final decision. Leaks can be patched only for so long before resurfacing becomes necessary. Some pools can be sandblasted, resurfaced with tile or painted with epoxy to address needs.

Concrete, of course, is very durable but can expand and crack over time. Tile, one of the more expensive and beautiful options, will require regrouting every 10 to 20 years. Plaster, also a very traditional choice, requires patching after about 10 years and creates sediment as the surface wears away. Fiberglass, a more affordable material in the short-term and which cleans easily, is not typically as durable and may not perform well in colder climates. New pool liners are also a viable option.

When it came time for the competitive, Olympic-size pool at Oklahoma Community College (host of the NCAA Mountain West Conference) to be resurfaced, several key considerations went into the surfacing selection process. Among those criteria were a long warranty and more comfortable surface to eliminate foot injuries caused by a rough-textured pool bottom.

"We started with an Olympic, plaster pool that we've had 14 years; even with the best of care, it was 10 years before we were patching," says Gary Belcher, building maintenance operations supervisor with the college. "It came down to longevity, money, ease of cleaning, algae-resistance and comfortable surface texture. We got a PVC membrane. It took 10 days to do it, they adhered it to the surface, and we got a 25-year warranty. It's really nice."


No matter the surfacing material of your pool, there's no substitute for good maintenance practices, the result of dedicated staff plus solid teamwork. Valuing maintenance staff appropriately with a team-building approach will communicate respect and result in greater effectiveness and pride of work. If skills are valued and input is asked for, staff members will respond with professionalism—they generally rise to the level at which they are treated.

Be on a first-name basis and do lunch from time to time with those who take care of your building. Managers who do, like Jeff Walter, assistant director at McLane Student Life Center of Baylor University in Waco, Texas, will tell you it's one of the best things a manager can do.