Supplement Feature - February 2009
Find a printable version here

In the Flow

Aquatic Design Trends

By Richard Zowie


Without waterslides or other recreational elements, Mendioroz explained, a pool's cost recovery is 50 percent at best. What's more, it's not unusual for stand-alone 50-meter municipal pools to lose $400,000 to $600,000 annually. Such a loss can be tolerated only for so long.

The solution? Mendioroz suggests to clients that they move away from the rectangular 50-meter pool. Besides adding recreational elements that can bring variety into the pool, he also suggests trying "odd dimensions" that give the pool a sense of uniqueness.

"If there's no entertainment value, the chance of approaching break-even is nonexistent," said Mendioroz.

Yarger Design Group President Bill Yarger said that when presenting designs to cities, he shows them the different options and lays out the financial undertaking of each. He asks them if they want a pool with 100 percent recovery or if they're willing to accept 75 percent.

It's especially important to run a fiscally-successful aquatic center with energy costs presenting their own challenges.

"I don't see us weaning ourselves off foreign oil anytime soon," Yarger added. "The cost of operating facilities is extremely high."

He also feels that communities should stay within their means. It doesn't make sense to put an Olympic-sized pool in a community environment, for example. He suggested that a good place to put in such a pool is a Division 1A college with large donors.

So what kind of attractions should be added to increase your potential revenue? While they may be on a smaller scale than those in the private sector, today's trends include a move toward municipal waterparks or—as Mendioroz prefers to call them—recreation aquatic facilities.

"If cost recovery is one of your goals, you must have scaled-down waterpark elements as part of your program," Mendioroz said. "Otherwise, you can only swim so many laps so many times and jump off the diving board so many times before you're bored out of your skull. With more entertainment value, you can charge a higher price and have higher cost-recovery potential."