Feature Article - May/June 2006
Find a printable version here

Undercover Operations

With proper planning, adding a pool enclosure can boost patronage and profits

By Dawn Klingensmith

Building to code

An important factor to keep in mind if you're in the market for a prefabricated enclosure is that these systems are considered permanent structures and are subject to building codes that you'll need to be aware of in advance.

"What I recommend is that architects meet with building officials beforehand so there aren't any surprises," says Mendioroz, referring to unplanned obstacles that tend to stretch timelines and stress budgets.

The Magdalena Ecke Family YMCA in Encinitas, Calif., learned this lesson the hard way when it tore up its small, two-lane lap pool and diving well, which "weren't getting the job done" for the club's 20,000 members, says Aquatics Director Chris Wallick. In their place, the YMCA built a 25-yard-by-25-meter pool to be used for lap swimming, swim meets and water polo as well as a separate warm-water pool designed with the needs and comfort of seniors, children and recreational splish-splashers in mind. Both pools will be covered with a prefabricated enclosure.

The YMCA planned to erect the enclosure in two phases so that one of the pools would remain open throughout construction, however, in January the club made the decision to close both pools after encountering an unexpected snag. Late in the process, the YMCA found out that municipal building codes mandated the installation of a sprinkler system.

"Just in case the water, the aluminum or the concrete catches on fire," Wallick says with an incredulous laugh.

Already behind schedule, the YMCA closed both pools to expedite its ability to bring in the necessary equipment and contractors needed to satisfy all the requirements for the permits.

The completed project will be worth the wait, Wallick says and expects it will pay off in the end.

"[The $1 million roof] plays a vital role in our ability to run programs year-round and at a high level day to day," he explains, adding that the club can now offer more swim lessons, water fitness classes, and designated lap or family swim times. The club also has plans to rent the pool to the local high school for water polo and to physical-therapy providers.

At its apex, the enclosure soars 30 feet above the water.

"So you won't feel like you're being sat on so to speak by the roof," Wallick says. More than 60 percent of the roof can be retracted to appease sunbathers. The roof is blue on the outside and white on the underside, so when the sun strikes the closed panels, there's a light-blue glow inside, he says.