Feature Article - November 2006
Find a printable version here

Special Supplement: Problem-Solver Guidebook

By Stacy St. Clair and Emily Tipping

Expanding Your Aquatic Center's Membership

For many aquatic centers, the only time to make money is the three months between Memorial Day and Labor Day. If inclement weather rains on your revenues, well, that's the price of doing the pool business, right?

Not necessarily. More and more centers have moved to year-round facilities with the help of custom-made pool environments. These enclosures not only allow for more programming, their aesthetic value also makes the aquatic center more attractive to patrons.

Scared of making such a big leap? It's easier than you think.

Q: What's the first step?

A: First, you must decide what type of structure you want. If you want something to get you over the winter hump, an inflatable dome will suffice. But if you want something more permanent—and trust us, you probably do—a rigid frame glazed-type enclosure is an attractive option.

Q: What's the most important factor when deciding on an enclosure type?

A: It's simply a matter of weighing the short-term and long-term benefits. Domes, for example, provide an inexpensive short-term option, but they aren't the best choice for facilities that want to make a long-standing commitment to a year-round aquatics program. Bubbles are labor-intensive, cost about $15,000 to inflate each year and last about 15 years. They're also not as airtight as permanent structures, meaning larger heating bills. In contrast, a rigid frame glazed enclosure is specifically designed to maintain the elements related to an indoor pool environment (dampness, humidity, chemical residue, etc.). Also, today's rigid frame enclosures are designed to meet local coding and snow loads for the area where they will be installed.

Q: If I want to build something quickly, what are my options?

A: Exactly how much time do you have? Obviously, domes have the quickest setup, but they require annual assembly. Rigid frame enclosures typically are constructed faster than brick-and-mortar buildings because they feature framing systems manufactured to the aquatic center's precise measurements. They're shipped to the site and assembled like a giant erector set. The best part? Once built, they require very little maintenance.

Q: What's the difference between a rigid frame enclosure and a brick-and-mortar building?

A: Both are permanent structures, but unlike most brick-and-mortar buildings, the rigid frame enclosures offer retractable roofs and sliding glass doors to provide an indoor/outdoor feel. Though they might cost more than domes or even some stick-built enclosures, they often are hailed for providing an inviting aquatic experience. And the more inviting the experience, the easier it will be to attract new patrons.

Q: What features should I include in my enclosure?

A: There are several features aquatics managers must consider. First, you should lean toward powder-coated aluminum or similar building materials that do not break down when exposed to moisture and chlorine. You also should consider a manufacturer that only uses building components that are not affected by the pool environment, such as baked-on power-coated aluminum structural frames and rafters, and stainless steel fasteners.

Q: What are the benefits of a retractable roof?

A: There are some obvious perks and some not-so-obvious ones. The roofs can fill 40 percent of the aquatic center with natural light, which provides an important psychological boost during the dreary winter months. Their ability to open and close also offers an easy way to help regulate air quality. Be sure the roof panels are made of polycarbonate—a tough, translucent, resin-based plastic—because it allows the natural light in while protecting against ultraviolet rays.


   CCSI International: 800-537-8231   

Back to Problem-Solver Guidebook Table of Contents