Feature Article - February 2007
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Special Supplement: A Complete Guide to Aquatic Centers

By Jessic Royer Ocken



Viva Las Vegas

On an especially sunny summer day, the city of Las Vegas' six swimming pools can host between 1,000 and 2,000 swimmers.

Previously an "archaic" structure, as described by Maintenance Supervisor Dan Stover, the Municipal Pool is now the city's 40,000-square-foot flagship facility (after a $5.6 million rebuild in 1999).

Staffed by a year-round fleet of 40 to 45 employees, which balloons to 140 in the summer, the Municipal Pool is the ultimate indoor/outdoor structure.

"It's like a big reverse garage door," explained Stover about the facility's retractable walls and ceiling. On nice days, the shatterproof glass side panels open for airflow and the roof lets the sun shine in, while still maintaining adequate shade.

"High schools in Nevada don't have their own pools," noted Aquatics Coordinator Tammy Hawkins. This shifts all the responsibility to the city.

Municipal Pool offers water polo, but it's a challenge to keep kids interested since there are no school-related team options.

"We have to promote it and train our staff to be good coaches," Hawkins said.

It's a similar situation for synchronized swimming, diving and swim teams, too.

"We lump those into our program called Recreation Competition Teams," she explained. "Kids in the summer can join one or all of those teams, and they can be eligible for a scholarship."

Each team practices about three hours a week, and they compete at a novice level with teams from surrounding communities.

Two outdoor pavilions, a fitness room, a concession area, an assortment of pool toys and an award-winning array of programs to choose from ensure that there's something for everyone at Municipal Pool.


MARKETING METHODS

Marketing your pool complex or water recreation area doesn't have to mean an involved plan and the help of a PR firm. Don't forget the basics.

The Midlothian Park District pool is in the midst of a residential area, a bit removed from any of the main thoroughfares. Knapp found that visitors found their way much more easily after she followed a staff member's suggestion and placed a few signs at nearby intersections to point the way to the pool. Even better, the city paid for them.

Be sure you're touting your staff's expertise as well. If you've got certified instructors, use this to your advantage. And if you don't have certified instructors, consider sending them to training for certification so you can use this as a selling point for your programs.

The Las Vegas Municipal Pool uses two brochures a year to get the word out about the facility's hours, programs, activities and special events. But sending the brochures is not enough. They also maximize their opportunities to get them into people's hands. Hawkins keeps a stack of brochures at the ready at the pool, and they're mailed directly to anyone who asks for one. From time to time the city helps with a mailing to a particular ZIP code, and they also make sure the schools and community centers in the area have a plentiful supply of information.

The Las Vegas Department of Leisure Services is also large enough to merit a media relations person who keeps the city Web site updated with all the pools' info, as well as creating news releases and flyers about special events—from the holiday synchronized swimming show to Christmas Break Splash Camp to the annual Lifeguard Olympics.

Even if your staff is a bit smaller, check with your city to see if you can send them information for the Web, and poll your employees to see if you've got someone who's a closet graphic designer or copywriter and might be willing to help develop promotional materials.

In addition, Hawkins keeps marketing on her mind, even when her main objective is something else. "When we're doing [lifeguard] recruitment, we'll market at the schools, through the high-school swim teams and dive teams, local junior colleges and four-year colleges," she said. "We go to several job fairs, and even then we're always promoting our water activities."