Feature Article - May/June 2006
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Undercover Operations

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

By Dawn Klingensmith

Let there be light

A variety of other roof colors—including bronze, opal and clear—are available. Panel colors affect insulation values. Mendioroz recommends translucent panels for the lower walls, although it's safe to incorporate some transparent panels in a north-

facing wall for a nice outdoorsy feel. Be careful elsewhere, though.

"You don't want to create an unsafe situation where your lifeguard can't see the water because of the glare," he says. If you've opted for floor-to-ceiling glass walls, shade the lower walls and do a transparent clerestory, so the unshaded windows are 8 to 10 feet high. That way, when the sun is low on the horizon, you'll get a nice, diffuse light.

"Sunlight usually isn't a problem if it's coming in high," Mendioroz says, adding that daylighting—an architectural industry buzzword for bringing natural light into a space—helps reduce energy costs.

Due to budget constraints, the Magdalena YMCA's new aquatic center has solid 10-foot walls on all four sides with three feet or so of glass glazing on top before the walls meet the slope of the roof.

"We're on a little hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean, so it would have been nice having glass walls all the way around," Wallick says, but his budget wouldn't allow it.

In fact, in the planning stages of the project, Wallick had to push hard to get an enclosure at all. When faced with an enormous price tag for the aquatic center upgrade, plans for the enclosure we're on the chopping block to lower costs.

"The roof stuck out at people as the obvious thing we could cut," he says.

Wallick got his way, but before the enclosure went up, it already was becoming apparent to people why he'd been right about its indispensability. While the new pools were uncovered, participation levels dropped precipitously when winter rolled around.

"One of the reasons for enclosing the facility is that we have a healthy senior population here, and they're very active," Wallick says. Thrice-weekly water fitness classes for seniors were drawing a group of 60 regulars, however, attendance dwindled to five to seven people in the winter.

"This is a class they absolutely love," Wallick says, "but the weather was a huge deterrent for them."

Moreover, staff morale plunged along with the mercury.

"It's miserable sitting in a lifeguard chair when it's 50 degrees out," he adds.

Davis of the Almaden Valley Athletic Club Swim School says weather can be a morale-sinker even in the summer in Northern California.

"When evening rolls around, and the sun's not hitting the water, it gets cold," she says. "The teachers shiver; the students shiver. That's not a conducive learning environment."

After AVAC invested in an enclosure, swim school participation grew from 1,600 students per week when it was a summer-only program to 4,500 per week. Enrollment drops off in winter, but with 3,400 students showing up each week, the school is seeing 100 percent more business even in the slow season. AVAC is on target to gross more than $3 million this year, up from $500,000 in its final year as a seasonal outdoor facility.