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

By Jessic Royer Ocken

Indoor, Outdoor or Indoor/Outdoor?

Determining whether you want an indoor, outdoor or combination aquatic center depends at least partially on where you're located, noted William Yarger of the Yarger Design Group.

"In warmer climates you [build] a lot [fewer] indoor leisure pools than you would in Maine or Michigan or Ohio or Missouri," he said.

But wherever you are, "even though there's an indoor facility, people still tend to swim more in the summer." Therefore, if you're building an indoor pool, it helps to connect it with a recreation center that has other activities available.

"You don't see a lot of stand-alone [indoor] aquatic facilities, but conversely, there are lots of stand-alone outdoor pools," Yarger said.

In warmer areas, the outdoor pool may be open year-round, or it may be a seasonal offering, as it must be in cooler climates.

"A lot of communities look at what affects their bottom line," explained Roger Schamberger, director of marketing for Burbach Aquatics. "They may be able to afford to put in an aquatic center, but how many months can they afford to operate it? Outdoor facilities can be tailored to fit in a lot of different-sized communities, but with indoor you need to look more closely. The price tag for initial construction will be more, and operating costs are more expensive."

Then throw in the staff you're going to need, the air quality machinery that's required to recirculate constantly, air conditioning and heating (depending on your climate), chemicals and everything else that makes an indoor pool function properly, and your price goes even higher.

"Later in August the kids go back to school and use drops off to just the die-hards," Schamberger explained. So evaluate carefully whether the die-hards are dedicated enough to sustain your facility's budget through the fall and winter months.

Other considerations include the fact that staffing a swimming pool is usually much easier at certain times of the year, based on the school schedules of the high school and college students who most likely make up your team.

"In the wintertime, the biggest challenge is finding lifeguards for indoor pools, so the pool won't always be open, even if it's there, because you can't afford to staff it 12 hours a day," Yarger said.

The exception to this could be an aquatic center affiliated with a school or recreation program, which would then have secondary resources for finding staff, as well as wintertime participants.