Feature Article - June 2008
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The Deep End

Very few respondents with aquatic facilities—just 0.8 percent—indicated that their facilities are used for competition alone. The vast majority of aquatic facilities—99.2 percent—included some kind of leisure component, with more than half (54.9 percent) combining leisure and competition in the same facility. (See Figure 36.)

This tendency toward leisure pools was reflected in the amenities our respondents were planning to add. The most commonly planned additions included splash play areas, water play structures and waterslides.

Other leisure-related amenities that have been growing in popularity were also among some of the amenities facilities included or were planning to add, including zero-depth entry (included by 28.6 percent of aquatic respondents, and planned for addition by 7.8 percent), poolside cabanas (included by 9 percent and planned for addition by 6.9 percent), lazy rivers (included by 8.8 percent, planned for addition by 5 percent) and wave pools (included by 2 percent, planned for addition by another 2.2 percent).

In fact, one aquatics manager with a parks and recreation department in Utah said the current growth of multi-use aquatic facilities was a top concern facing his department: "Water slides, zero depth, splash pads, interactive features—the biggest challenge will be to keep up with the current new facilities being built and renovated."

The addition of so many leisure-related amenities and activities to pools is considered by many to be reflective of the growing challenge of financing aquatic facilities. With rising energy costs, and shrinking budgets, waterpark-like amenities represent just one way many cities and other entities have attempted to reduce the difference between operating costs and revenues for their aquatic facilities. And in fact, aquatic facilities are more likely to charge fees for usage than facilities across the board. While among all facilities, some 62.4 percent said they charged a fee for membership or usage, for those with aquatic facilities this number jumps to 77.4 percent.