Supplement Feature - February 2009
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In the Flow

Aquatic Design Trends

By Richard Zowie


hings change as time goes by, and when it comes to aquatic centers, a failure to keep up with the trends can result in a facility that's all washed up. For some centers, incorporating waterpark trends is the key to success, while others are forced to think "outside the box" to make an old idea thrive.

The Economics of Aquatic Center Design

Randy Mendioroz, president of Aquatic Design Group, based in Carlsbad, Calif., recalled a story that illustrated how tricky an investment some swimming pools can be. A city manager wanted to know if a 50-meter Olympic pool would be feasible. Mendioroz advised against it, arguing that it would not make money, and that the best cost recovery would be 60 percent to 70 percent. In other words, for every dollar invested, the pool could make 60 to 70 cents.

He recommended a 25-yard-by-50-meter pool instead, arguing that this setup would make it easier to break even. His recommendation was not followed, and two years later, the city found itself with about $650,000 in revenue with expenses of $1 million. Mendioroz believes that this type of problem escalates when people don't realize how much money it costs to build and maintain a pool, and how much they can end up overestimating potential revenue.

"Once you have a big Olympic pool in the mix, you need a ton of recreation to make money from it," he said. "If you design a traditional, linear pool facility, you invariably operate at a deficit."

This is partly because a linear pool with no added features gives those looking to swim for fun or exercise few options. Before long, boredom will set in, and those pool-goers might try to look for a place that provides a little more aquatic excitement.